FPV: The Rules
With the arrival of Hubsan's exciting new FPV (First Person View) range it's time to brush up on the rules governing the use of FPV products.
Before taking to the skies using FPV technology you should familiarize yourself with the FPV UK Pilot Handbook.
The video below shows an example of an FPV aircraft in flight:
Keeping Things Legal
UK air law is documented in ’The Air Navigation Order’ issued by the Civil Aviation Authority. You can view the ANO it in its entirety here.
As model pilots FPV users fall under “Small Unmanned Aircraft” and in some cases “Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft” and as such are exempt from the vast majority of the Air Navigation Order. The articles that do apply to us are: 131, 138, 161, 164, 166, 167, 232
The following 4 are not really relevant to R/C and FPV and paraphrased descriptions are included here only for completeness – please open the PDF if you would like to read them in full.
131 = Dropping for the purposes of agriculture
161 = Power to prohibit or restrict flying
164 = A glider must not be winched or ground towed above 60 metres
232 except 232(2)(a) = CAA’s power to stop flying
The articles which are relevant to R/C, and FPV flying are: 138, 166 and 167.
Endangering safety of any person or property
A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.
Small unmanned aircraft
A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to
a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons
The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if
reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided
visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other
aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding
The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7kg
excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the
aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft:
in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic
control unit has been obtained;
within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air
traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such
air traffic control unit has been obtained; or
at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace
described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for
The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the
purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
Small unmanned surveillance aircraft
The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the
aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance
with a permission issued by the CAA.
The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:
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
within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the
control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance
aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned
surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the
In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.
At first it would appear that FPV flying would fall under article 167 for small unmanned surveillance aircraft because the ANO definition of an unmanned surveillance aircraft is as above in 167(5). However in situations where a camera is used for the sole purpose of controlling the aircraft the flight is not considered surveillance or data acquisition. (Use of that data for other functions could be though). CAP 722 (http://www.caa.co.uk/cap722) article 3.6 in Section 3 Chapter 1 page 4 refers to this, copied here: “The provision of image or other data solely for the use of controlling or monitoring the aircraft is not considered to be applicable to the meaning of ‘Surveillance or Data Acquisition’ covered at Article 167 for Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft.”
You can find out more by visiting www.fpvuk.org/