Safe airspace for all
Drones represent an exciting development in aviation technology and offer new opportunities for emergency services, businesses and individuals across the globe.
However, they also pose an increasing challenge for air traffic control.
At NATS, we want to ensure the UK’s busy skies are safe and accessible for everyone, and we’re working hard to enable the safe integration of drones with manned aircraft to ensure all airspace users can operate safely alongside each other.
We’re developing and adopting new unmanned traffic control technologies aimed at streamlining unmanned flight approvals processes.
We’re also establishing unified air traffic management (UTM) capabilities that will future-proof our systems to provide safe and secure air traffic control services for everyone who wants to fly any type of aircraft in our skies.
Since November 2019 it has been a legal requirement in the UK for anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft weighing between 250g and 20kg to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and pass an online education package. Further guidance on this is provided in the resources and FAQS below:
If your drone weighs less than 20 kilograms and you’re flying within visual line of sight outside restricted airspace (avoiding Flight Restriction Zones), you do not need permission or air traffic control authorisation.
Please allow up to 14 days for your flight authorisation to come through although, if the airspace area in which you wish to fly is especially sensitive, your application process may take longer.
If you are a commercial drone operator, flying your drone as part of your work or for commercial gain, you must hold a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) qualification, issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
If you want to fly your drone inside any aerodrome Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ), or your preferred flight plan includes flying through any part of an FRZ, you are required by law to seek and obtain air traffic control permission in advance. This can be done by filing an application on https://nsf.nats.aero.
All drone pilots are responsible for their aircraft at all times and it’s important that everyone flies safely and responsibly.
You can find out more by viewing our free online training course for hobbyist drone operators.
If you see a drone being flown illegally, you should immediately report the incident to the police by telephoning 101.
If you are a drone user or otherwise connected with the aviation industry, you can report your concerns via the CHIRP website by clicking on the CHIRP online confidential reporting tab.
If you witness a dangerous or potentially unsafe drone-related incident, you should report the circumstances to the CAA.
You can do this online using its Occurrence Reporting system.
Anyone witnessing a dangerous or potentially unsafe airspace event should report the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority and/or to the police by telephoning 101; if you are directly involved in the incident as an aviation professional you should use the Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR) system on the CAA website.
If, as an aviation professional, a member of the drone community, or a drone pilot, you are concerned that a drone is being flown irresponsibly, intrusively, dangerously or in manner that may have an impact on airspace safety, you can report your concerns via the CAA-sponsored CHIRP confidential reporting programme, which is accessible via the CHIRP website.
The Drone Safe website, and many of the drone flight safety apps listed on there, contain information about where it is and isn’t safe to fly your drone in your local area – however, please be aware that use of these apps does not constitute flight request approval or clearance to enter controlled airspace.