Guidance for operators of small unmanned aircraft (SUA) who wish to operate in controlled airspace and around specific aerodromes

A SUA is a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), alternatively known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or a "drone".

The Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2018 contains specific rules for SUA (weighing 20kg or less Maximum Take-Off Mass) and further differentiates between SUA weighing 20kg or less but over 7kg and those weighing 7kg or less.

Certain SUA operations that take place within controlled airspace are considered Unusual Air Activities and require a specific permission to enter the airspace.

The categories of SUA affected are:

  1. SUA weighing less than 20kg but more than 7kg require approval from the relevant Air Traffic Control (ATC) unit.
  2. SUA flown in First Person Viewing (FPV) mode weighing up to the maximum permissible 3.5kg require approval from the relevant ATC unit.
  3. SUA of any weight within the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) of an aerodrome require approval from the relevant ATC unit. Outside the operating hours of the ATC unit, approval is required from the aerodrome authority and/or the CAA.

Details of the FRZ requirements and the specific aerodromes affected can be found in Article 94B of the ANO 2018.

For those operations requiring a permission, this site contains a specific form for operators of SUA to obtain Non-Standard Flight (NSF) or Enhanced Non-Standard Flight (ENSF) approval, which are separate to the forms to be filled in for operations of aircraft heavier than 20kg.  Completion of this specific form means that the small RPAS operator does not need to fill in the main NSF/ENSF forms for heavier aircraft.

Operators of SUA of any weight who wish to operate in Restricted Areas R157, R158 and R159 (in central London) are required to apply for an Enhanced Non Standard Flight (ENSF) approval which includes authorisation from the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP). Applications for this must be made via the Small RPAS form – NATS will arrange for the DPG authorisation.

Compliance with Articles 94, 94A, 94B, 95 & 241 of the ANO 2018 is required at all times.

If your SUA flight is for aerial work or surveillance purposes, then you need to contact the CAA for an appropriate Permission. Please visit here for more details.

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