There are various permissions and considerations in order to operate a drone for aerial filming in London.
Drones may also be referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).
In advance of filming you need to ensure that you have:
- Permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
- Permission from the owner or manager the land used for take-off and landing
- Control over the area you intend to use the drone within. This includes any persons or vehicles in the area.
All commercial drone operators must be in possession of a CAA permission document. Any drone flight in an urban area or near large crowds of people, whether for private or commercial purposes, will require the same document.
The CAA grants permission for multi-rotor and fixed-wing type, and will only grant permission for drones that do not exceed 20kg.
For more information contact the CAA Flight Operations Department on 01293 573 517 or UAVenquiries@caa.co.uk.
Land Permission and Area Control
Productions using drones for filming purposes must ensure they are familiar with aircraft legislation and procedures that relate to aerial filming in London.
Due to the nature of the local airspace and the density of population there are some important restrictions on the operation of aircraft in and around the capital.
The Air Navigation Order, Articles 166 and 167, states the distances at which drones may be operated:
- Not within a specified distance, normally 150m, of any congested area of a city, town or settlement
- Not within a specified distance, normally 50m, of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the aircraft operator
CAA Information Notice 2014/190, point 6.1.4, states: "In any circumstances or weight category, it should be noted that flights directly overhead persons and vehicles will not be allowed at any height in a congested area unless they are under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft"
A full closure of the road or area to be used will usually need to be in place before the drone can be used.
Drone operators should liaise with the organisation or individual responsible for the land required for take-off and landing to obtain permission.
They will also need to ensure that the land below the flight-path is either clear of people and vehicles by the requisite distances, or that access to the surface is restricted and any people and vehicles are under control of the operator. Drones should not be flown over people, vessels or vehicles that are not in control of the production.
For many public locations in London, including most streets and parks, the location contact will be the local Borough Film Service.
The drone operator is responsible for obtaining permission to fly within any restricted airspace in London. Restricted areas include Hyde Park (EG R157), City of London (EG R158) and Isle of Dogs (EG R159). Restricted areas are marked on aviation charts and listed in the UK Aeronautical Information Package (UK AIP).
Flight within these areas is restricted for all types of aircraft, whether manned or unmanned. To obtain permission the drone operator must apply for Enhanced Non-Standard Flight clearance via the NATS website, using the procedures detailed at point ENR 1.1-18 in the UK AIP.
This clearance is also mandatory for all flights below 1400 feet above sea level.
Privacy and Copyright
The Information Commissioner's Office has issued guidelines regarding privacy and the use of drones for filming purposes.
Film London provides guidance on copyright, privacy and other legal considerations when filming people or buildings.
Public Liability cover of at least £5m will be required when using drones to film in London. Under some circumstances this may need to be increased.
Further detailed guidance is available in the CAA document IN-2014/190: Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations Within London and Other Towns and Cities.