Aerial filming

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) permission

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, needs the same document.

The CAA grants permission for multi-rotor and fixed-wing type. They only grant permission for drones that do not exceed 20kg.

The Air Navigation Order 2009 is the principal piece of UK legislation governing aircraft, including drones. Articles 166 and 167 have key points covering use of drones for filming.

This states that a drone operator must request a 'Permission' from the CAA if it plans to -

  • fly the aircraft on a commercial basis. This can be known as conducting 'Aerial Work'
  • fly a camera or surveillance fitted aircraft within Congested Areas or closer than the distances listed within Article 167 to people or properties that are not under its control. These include vehicles, vessels or structures

The Air Navigation Order states the circumstances in which a camera or surveillance fitted drone cannot be operated without extra permission from the CAA -

  • over or within 50 metres of any -
    • person
    • vessel
    • vehicle
    • or structure which is not under the control of the aircraft operator
  • over or within 150 metres of any Congested Area, defined as a -
    • city
    • town
    • or settlement that is substantially used for -
      • residential
      • industrial
      • commercial
      • or recreational purposes
  • over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1000 people

If the complete mass, including camera, of the drone is less than 7kg, a CAA permission will normally include an approval to operate within 150m of a congested area. The requirement to remain 50m clear of -

  • persons
  • vehicles
  • vessels
  • structures

not under the control of the operator still applies.

A reduced separation distance of 30m from uninvolved persons is permitted during take-off and landing. Note that this reduction was originally intended for specific circumstances. These can be such as model aircraft flight lines.

Here’s a summary from CAA. Further guidance can be found here.

For further information you can contact the CAA through email -