Game of drones – make sure you know the law

Recent controversy has highlighted the issue of the use of drone technology at public events. Randle Stonier, CEO at Adding Value, offers a summary of UK legal requirements and best practice considerations


Last month, officers from the Metropolitan Police force seized a drone which they claimed was being flown over the Wimbledon tennis courts. The force said it was an offence to fly a drone “within 50m of a structure”.

Correctly managed, drones, can provide a great platform for capturing photos and video at festivals, bespoke hospitality events, incentive travel, sponsorship activations or even conferences and trade shows. But as the incident at Wimbledon demonstrates legal considerations and safety considerations must remain paramount.


Outlined below is my understanding of the current situation in the UK, pieced together from a variety of sources.

  • A key reference source is the air navigation order on the Civil Aviation Authority website.
  • The drone operation must not endanger anyone or anything.
  • The drone must be kept within the visual line of sight of its remote photographer/operator.
  • Operations beyond these distances must be approved by the CAA (the basic premise being for the ‘droneographer’ to prove that he/she can do this safely. A certificate of ‘photo drone pilotage competency’ is effectively being introduced for droneographers).
  • Small unmanned aircraft (irrespective of their mass) that are being used for surveillance purposes are subject to even tighter restrictions and, permission maybe required from the CAA before operations are commenced.
  • CAA permission is also required for all flights that are being conducted for aerial work (i.e. in very simple terms, you are getting paid for doing it i.e. your ‘droneographer’!).
  • The ‘remote pilot’ has the responsibility for satisfying him/herself that the flight can be conducted safely.

The aircraft must not be flown:

over or within 150 metres of any   congested area
over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft
within 50 metres of any person except during take-off or landing, the aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person except for the person in charge of the aircraft.

The event organiser or event producer will need to ensure they have appropriate insurance cover and that the ‘droneographer’ is suitably insured too.

Batteries last about 30 minutes.


Restricted airspace

There are a considerable number of UK restricted airspaces. This information can be found at This shows that most of central London for example, is a no-go zone without CAA approved activity.


Drones and Data Protection

Event organisers should bear in mind that the collection of identifiable individuals’ images, even inadvertently, when using surveillance cameras mounted on a small unmanned surveillance aircraft, will be subject to the Data Protection Act. As this Act contains requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of such images, Small Unmanned Aircraft operators should ensure that they are complying with any such applicable requirements or exemptions. This gives rise to a whole host of extra issues.


Indoor drones

Drones can be used internally within your event space – again insurances, risk assessments and data protection considerations will apply, as well as the terms and conditions of venue hire. Communal event spaces are likely to be no-go zones. Line of sight, aerials and wires, in light and in dark, droneographers blinded by the spotlights and audience hands of God are other factors to be borne in mind.



Don’t forget that drones can be noisy and disruptive.

One personal observation: completely unprotected rotary blades on drones strike me as a disaster waiting to happen.

In short, ‘droneography’ is do-able but there are more than a few hoops to ensure you’re compliant.

John Keenan


John Keenan

Up Next

Related Posts

  • Nolan O’Connor

    I organised the flight of a drone at The NEC during the launch of eDelivery Expo in March. Although we had to jump through a number of hoops with The NEC and Air Traffic Control at Birmingham International Airport (located next door), it worked a treat.