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Working around no-fly zones for the UK’s biggest cities

Working around no-fly zones for the UK’s biggest cities

Drone Hire, News, Regulation

At Aerial Republic we have worked in a wide range of environments, from sprawling cities to the most desolate wildernesses, providing high quality drone videography for some of the world’s largest television networks and studios.

With licences that allow us to work throughout the world and on every continent, it’s important to know just where we’re allowed to film — especially in our home country.

Each of our drone operators holds a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licence, meaning that they can fly up to 400ft in height and 500m distance as long as the pilot maintains a visual line of sight.

What are the laws in regards to flying drones in the UK?

This is an important question, for both professional drone pilots and amateurs, as falling foul of the code, or by flying a drone in a no-fly zone without permission, can lead to prosecution.

As the popularity of drones has increased dramatically over the past five years or so the CAA has written up what it calls The Drone Code — a set of rules that all pilots must abide by.

Here are the rules at their most basic:

  • Keep the drone within sight and below 400 feet in height
  • Ensure that the drone is within 500 feet from your person on a horizontal basis
  • Always fly a drone away from aircraft helicopters, airports, and airfields
  • If fitted with a camera, a drone must be flown at least 50 metres away from a person, vehicle, building or structure not owned or controlled by the pilot
  • Camera equipped drones must not be flown within 150 metres of a congested area, or a large group of people. For licenced operators with a sub 7KG drone this is reduced to 50m however.

Interestingly, the CAA advises that a drone must not be flown over a ceiling height of 400 feet not because of dangers to aircraft but because that is the generally measured limit of normal sight that is unaided.

That said however, Aerial Republic has a lot of experience working in heavily congested areas and file for special permissions with the CAA on a case by case basis.

Last year for example, we helped film Our Dancing Town within town centres throughout Yorkshire, which required us to have written permissions from all buildings within 50 metres of our filming locations.

Planning is a key throughout all city and town centre locations and we are well versed in gaining the right permissions via a well-planned and organised pre-production schedule.

No-fly drone zones in the UK

No-fly zones UK

You might not be surprised to learn that throughout the UK there are a number of no-fly zones for drones.

Many of these are in and around major cities, usually where there is an airport nearby. Alongside these, there are also areas where drone flying is banned due to prohibited, restricted, or military aerodrome traffic zones — to name but a few.

Quite recently we filmed just 700m from the runway of Doncaster airport, meaning that we had to contact air traffic control, meet with them and discuss our risk assessment in detail before carrying out the shoot while in constant communication with the control tower.

The staff there limited the air traffic to 1500m whilst we got the shots, while they also limiting our height to 50 meters.

Airports actually want to work with operators and understand we have a business to run and actually appreciate operators that get in touch with a solid plan of their operations.

With years of aerial drone filming experience globally, we have worked in some of the busiest UK cities where no-fly zones apply throughout or within certain areas. These include:


Since Manchester is close to numerous airports, including Manchester Airport and John Lennon Airport in Liverpool, the vast majority of the airspace in and around it is a controlled airspace and or an aerodrome traffic zone.

We have specialist drones under 7KG and have on numerous occasions sought permission to fly in and around the Manchester area and have recently surveyed the original 1938 Kellogg’s cereal plant near Trafford Park.


Although many of the areas near Newcastle are restricted due to them being classed as Danger Areas and High Intensity Radio Transmission Areas (HIRTAs), much of Newcastle itself is found within controlled airspace.


London Thames

As you can imagine, the vast majority of the capital is under controlled airspace and other restrictions because of the great number of airports and other activity that takes place every minute of the day.

It’s no secret that London can be one of the hardest cities in the UK to get permission to film in, but Aerial Republic has had a great deal of experience getting the right permissions for a wide range of shoots, including Richard Jackson’s Garden for QVC.

For more information about drone permissions, check out the CAA’s page on the subject. You can also read this handy map for a quick guide to no-fly zones, or this neat app available on both Android and iTunes.

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