Drones—the legal framework
Produced in partnership with Ruhi Sethi-Smith of Forum Chambers
Drones—the legal framework

The following TMT guidance note Produced in partnership with Ruhi Sethi-Smith of Forum Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Drones—the legal framework
  • Drones—the basics
  • The regulatory framework—International, European and UK
  • Classification of drones under the ANO
  • Key provisions of the ANO
  • Obtaining CAA permissions
  • The Drone Code
  • Criminal liability
  • Civil liability under the CAA
  • Trespass
  • more

This Practice Note considers the key legal issues arising in relation to the use of small drones (small unmanned aircraft or SUA) with an operating mass of less than 20 kg in a recreational and commercial context.

It covers:

  1. Drones—the basics

  2. The regulatory framework—International, European and UK

  3. Classification of drones under the ANO

  4. Key provisions of the ANO

  5. Obtaining CAA permissions

  6. The Drone Code

  7. Criminal liability

  8. Civil liability under the CAA

  9. Insurance

  10. Cybersecurity

Large drones (unmanned aircraft with an operating mass above 20 kg) are generally treated under law as being equivalent to manned aircraft and are subject to more extensive regulation. As such they are not covered in this note.

For guidance on the privacy and data protection issues arising in relation to drones, see Practice Note: Drones—privacy and data protection and Precedent: Drone services agreement.

Drones—the basics

'Drone' is the term commonly used to describe an aircraft which does not have a human pilot on board but instead is controlled remotely through pre-flight and on-flight programming and operation.

The term was initially used to describe remotely controlled aircraft being used for military purposes such as surveillance and referred to the noise that the early unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) made during flight. However, it is now used to describe a wide range of remotely controlled aircraft used for commercial and recreational purposes.

The European

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