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Drones and Flying Distances | GDPA – Global Drone Pilots Association
Maximum Height that a Drone Can Fly So the drone can only fly up to 400 feet on the ground, which is about 300 feet [120 m] long. This will keep you below the level of most controlled aircraft and reduce the risk of collisions there (although some military aircraft and helicopters may fly low […]

Maximum Height that a Drone Can Fly

So the drone can only fly up to 400 feet on the ground, which is about 300 feet [120 m] long. This will keep you below the level of most controlled aircraft and reduce the risk of collisions there (although some military aircraft and helicopters may fly low so there may be some restrictions if you are in an area where one of these is likely to occur). This maximum altitude is measured above ground and not above sea level so if the length of the area varies so does the maximum length of the drone. The CAA Drone Safe Website has an excellent diagram to show you exactly what they mean below.

Being Under a Drone Pilot’s Control

This section is the key to understanding more about drone aircraft as the drone pilot must look to maintain a safe distance from people, structures, ships and vehicles that are not under their control. Basically being 'under the control' of a drone pilot means that someone is only there for the purpose of drone aircraft or that they are informed and can reasonably be expected to follow safety instructions and procedures to avoid any accidents occurring. So, for example, a member of staff present to allow the drone pilot's access to the airport area would be subject to them but spectators at the event would not be as non-existent drone pilots and would not be informed of appropriate safety procedures. The most common example would be if you hired a drone pilot to take a picture of the house and they were flying near your neighbors, if your neighbors were told of safety procedures and knew the date and time of the drone flight would be under your control.

Drone Flight Distances in Flight

This is where the 'under control' section comes into play. The law stipulates that a drone pilot must keep 50m away from people, a building, ships and vehicles that are not under their control (except where it is an event with more than 999 people present where the distance is 150m). During departure, the distance was reduced to 30m.
This distance has been used as a bubble and the easiest way to visualize is to imagine that there is a 50m (or 150m) piece of string attached to the bottom of the drone. If at any time, this piece of string can be stretched in any direction to reach a person, property, ship or vehicle that is not under the control of the pilot then it is very close. Above and beyond this distance, a drone pilot can fly (with the caveat that he always flies safely) as no one is in control of the airspace. The drone therefore does not require a permit to fly above your garden at a height of 51 meters according to aviation law (there are completely different rules regarding privacy that we will include in a separate post).

Drone Code Flying Distances Explained

Interfering with a drone, trying to remove it from the sky by whatever means, as well as being potentially dangerous for you and other people is against the law and could see you being prosecuted and so if you have concerns, the action to take is to call 101 and report the activity.

All DSR pilots act according legal requirements and best practice standards which will usually include courtesy information being passed to anyone who is likely to be affected by a drone flight and also informing the relevant police authorities of the flight path so that they are able to advise any members of the public who ring in with concerns.

There is no restriction on distances that must be adhered to where people, structures, vehicles and vessels are under the control of the pilot so in theory a drone can fly as close as is required although the requirement for ‘safe flight’ would still apply.

Exceptions to the Rule

The criteria we have just mentioned are the standard Commercial Operation (PFCO) permits. Other pilots will be applying for special permits and distances to allow them to operate in congested areas and this is called the Operating Safety Case and specified for each pilot. To achieve this, they need to put in place safety measures that the CAA is satisfied will enable them to get closer and work safely. For example, they may need more staff to serve as 'overseers' or spectators.
What does this mean when you hire a Drone Pilot?

These rules will apply to an official drone driver who will obviously install any member of the Drone Safe Register Network. So if you are looking to book a drone pilot for any reason, they will need to check your requirements to make sure they are flying according to these standards.

That doesn't mean you can't use a drone if the plane is going to cross these 50m / 150m limits but the pilot will need to check the situation and take the necessary steps to make this safer. This may require additional planning time, for example, if more people need to be notified of the flight, or they may incur costs if additional staff are needed.

Understanding the requirements for an official distance can help explain why the pilot has so many questions about the job you want to do when you contact them before they give you the rating. All of our DSR pilots would like to help you achieve your photography and videography goals but they need to make sure everything is done safely and legally at all times.

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