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Hummingbird UAV explain what you need to know about the new drone laws

New drone laws have come into force as part of the UK Government’s effort to improve aviation safety. In this post, we highlight the important changes that you need to know about.

As of Tuesday 31st July 2018, new drone safety restrictions came into effect in the UK.


These changes have been implemented by the Government as part of an amendment to the 2016 Air Navigation order.


To guide you through the changes, we have summarised our interpretation of the new laws below. We also walk you through how you can become a CAA approved Commercial Drone Pilot.

What are the new laws?

drone flight restriction zone

1. It is a criminal offence to fly your drone within 1 km of airport boundaries

If you want to fly within 1km of a licenced airfield (be it an airport or a military airfield) at any height, you will have to get special permission from air traffic control. This law applies to all drones, regardless of their mass. During the Hummingbird PfCO course we explain the process for getting permission….it’s not as hard as you may think and with a PfCO you are more likely to get permission.

2. It is against the law to fly your drone above 400ft (120m)

Unless you have an exemption from the CAA, you must not fly your drone more than 400ft above the ground. The distance is measured from the height you take off from, whether this is from the top of a hill, or in a valley. If you are flying over a cliff edge or a tall building and there is more than 400ft between the ground and your drone, you will need to obtain an exemption. During the Hummingbird PfCO course we explain the process for writing an Operating Safety Case (OSC) which you would need to produce if you wish to operate higher than 400 feet…again, it’s not as hard as you think.

drone restriction heights

What happens if I break the laws?

If you’re found breaking the new restrictions you could face up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. Breaking these laws could open yourself up to being charged with ‘recklessly endangering an aircraft, or a person in an aircraft’, which comes with severe consequences. If you do not have a PfCO, fly a drone and take any form of payment for the flight then you are also committing a crime.

How can Hummingbird UAV help?

Hummingbird are aviation specialists. We have over 16 years’ experience in commercial aviation and are the UKs only Drone pilot training NQE AND Helicopter Pilot ATO.


The Hummingbird UAV PfCO course will provide you with the skills to operate your drone confidently, safely and legally. We specialise in ab-initio drone training and assessment, that is: – coaching pilots from zero experience all the way through to qualified CAA approved Permission holders. We have bases in Ashford in Kent and Doncaster in South Yorkshire.

  • If you prefer one 2 one training then we can do this with our bespoke course, any day of the week or weekend.
  • We run 2-day class-room group courses twice per month on a weekend and during the week.
  • Our classroom courses are kept small so that you benefit from a more personal service.
  • Each student is allocated a Hummingbird mentor to coach you during the course.
  • Complete the course in 3 days.
  • We have a 100% pass rate.

1. The terms SUA Operator and Remote Pilot

There are now two new terms: SUA Operator (the person managing the drone) and Remote Pilot (the person flying the drone). Previously in a PfCO holders Ops manual, it may have referred to the latter as the ‘Person in Control’ or ‘Pilot in Command’. If you’re a sole trader, then both terms would apply to you simultaneously. The distinction between the two is more clearly illustrated when considering a scenario which may be more typical of a larger organisation, where the SUA Operator (who is also probably the PfCO holder) would prepare the flight, and then provide instructions to the remote pilot on where they are required to fly for that job. What the new terminology does is make it clear that responsibilities for safety are shared between both the remote pilot and the SUA Operator.

2. Changes to PfCO drone classifications

It used to be that if you were flying a drone above 7kg, you would have to sit a separate Heavy Lift qualification. Now, there are only two classes of drone on the standard PfCO:

  1. 0–20kg multirotor.
  2. 0–20kg fixed wing

3. Flying Drones that weigh >7kgs in a Congested Area

It used to be that if you flew a drone that weighed more than 7kgs in a congested area you would have to maintain 150m distance from people and property. This rule has been removed. If your drone weighs up to 20kg you may fly in a congested area so long as you maintain 50m separation.

Need further information?

If you need any clarification of the points written here, you can contact the Hummingbird team through the instant chat on our website or request a call-back. We typically respond within 2 minutes and will be happy to help!


We hope this has been a useful guide, and as always, safe flying!

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