Welcome to PhantomPilots.com

Sign up for a weekly email of the latest drone news & information

[UK] Legal to fly in public park?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Trumple, Jun 4, 2015.

  1. Trumple

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    UK
    Hi all,

    I have a P3 and was wondering if anyone has deciphered the innumerable rules regarding UAVs with cameras. My main concern is the definition of a congested area, which UAVs with cameras (such as the P3) are not supposed to fly within. Does a park constitute a congested area? Seems a bit ridiculous, especially in a huge open park away from people, structures, roads, etc.

    The CAA defines a congested area as:
    "A ‘Congested Area’ is defined in Article 255 of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2009. The definition states that a ‘Congested Area’ means any area in relation to a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes. Operations of SUA within congested areas may be permitted in specific circumstances as described in remainder of this Information Notice."
    http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=33&pagetype=65&appid=11&mode=detail&id=6511

    I am not interested in commercial work, I just want to get some shots from the skies legally and safely :)

    If anyone has any information it would be much appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
    #1 Trumple, Jun 4, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  2. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    I am no lawyer, and I have not tested the CAA out, and dont intend to. I try to do everything to the letter. I have exchanged a couple of emails with them to try clarify things, with mixed success.

    If the park is quiet, i.e. there is no one in it, and you are 150m away from any settlement and 50m away from any buildings/cars/vessles/people etc, you should be OK. So, a park in the middle of a city is unlikely to be OK if there are any commercial, residential, industrial buildings within 150m, or any single building within 50m of where you want to fly. The best time to fly I find, is early. I went up to a farmers field at 5:30 yesterday morning and didn't even see a dog walker until I was heading back to my car. Flying in parks which may be within earshot of a peoples houses is not going to go down too well at 5 or 6 in the morning. So for those sorts of places I find the best time to fly is in the middle of the day during the week. Most people are at work, all kids are at school, and if you are lucky the dog walkers are having their lunch. This means I dont get to fly there much at weekends or in school holidays.

    The biggest problem you may have is bye laws. My council have outlawed all R/C flying from all their named parks and open spaces except one. And this is I think? in the third largest city in the UK. The loophole there is to get the bye law and check the named parks which are excluded. The list I have does not include all council land. So if it aint in the bye law it aint excluded.

    It is getting harder and harder to fly.
     
    Trumple likes this.
  3. Trumple

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    UK
    Thanks very much for the info.

    The park itself is larger than a normal park, and so there's quite a bit of space between where I'd fly and the surrounding roads and houses. According to Google maps, at least 250m in every direction, and I tend to just fly above me. Like you, I fly at off-peak times. It looks beautiful from the skies at 5:00AM when the sun is just rising :)

    As for bye-laws, my council haven't made any new ones since 1998, and I can't see anything before that relating to flying so I think I'm OK on that front.

    I stumbled upon a thread with your communication with the CAA while I was looking around yesterday. It seems to suggest that it is down to the judgement of the operator to determine if a place is "substantially congested". I take this to mean that a place which is "substantially used for recreation" may be "substantially congested" at peak/busy times of the day, but it may not at off-peak times of the day (say 5:00AM). Is that sort of the right interpretation? I'm just worried because a park probably falls under "recreational area", and so therefore is defined as a "congested area".

    Thanks again for your help.
     
  4. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    My own interpretation is that the substantial congestion is not necessarily fixed. So if you had a town with say 5,000 residental properties in it, it would be reasonable to assume that there will always be people there. And you cant tell for sure, so best to always forget about ever flying near residential areas. Parks on the other hand (byelaws aside) vary enourmously. There can be soccer and rugby matches being played, or kids on swings, all going on one minute, and at another time of day.... tumbleweed. I think the judgement part comes down to safety first and DPA/intrusion second. If you are much more than 50m away from anyone, intrusion is unlikely to be perceived except by the paranoid. If you fly where there are no people and away from structures, roads, bridges etc then it is likely to be safe. I thing the CAA's parting shot to me was something along the lines of you have to use your own judgement, but if the **** hits the fan we may or may not agree with your judgement.
     
    #4 Hughie, Jun 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  5. Trumple

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    UK
    I see, thank you for explaining in plain English. I think the CAA lacks detail in their explanations, but I can understand why since blanket statements are easier than making 100 rules for edge-cases. Given that SUA are permitted to fly within "congested areas" and SUSA are not (regardless of weight), I think the additional restrictions on SUSA must stem from privacy concerns. As such, if your judgement is that it's safe to fly and there are no third parties around, my guess would be that the CAA are happy. As you said though, the CAA are going to be less inclined to agree with your judgement if your judgement leads to an accident or a report.

    I guess we'll just have to err on the side of caution. If in doubt, I'll find somewhere else to fly. There are plenty of beautiful places in the UK that would not constitute congested areas.
     
  6. landmannnn

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2015
    Messages:
    350
    Likes Received:
    62
    Location:
    Coventry and Limoges
    Here is some guidance from a borough council, pretty sensible to my mind (apart from the typos)

    Flying Model Aircraft

    We want everyone to be able to enjoy our parks. So if you want to fly your model planes we want to you be able to do it safely but we also want to protect other people, our wildlife and plants.

    Our Byelaws include rules about launching and recovering radio controlled and control lined model aircraft.

    The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are responsible for airspace regulations, you must check their guidelines and follow their rules when flying your aircraft.

    Rules for electrically powered model aircraft
    • You can fly anywhere except local nature reserves
    • Your aircraft mustn’t annoy other people
    • You must stop flying if we, or a member of the police ask you to
    • You must pay attention to where you’re flying
     
    Hughie likes this.
  7. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    Landmann. Isnt that refreshing. I wish other councils (not mentioning any names) could get out of their heavy handed "Thou Shall't Not" fixation.
     
  8. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    Specifically on SUA v SUSA. The CAA inform me that these two sets of rules (I guess we are really talking about Articles 166 and 167) should ideally be considered as one. They said that they already do this for commercial cases. So, what that means I believe is that all the worst case rules could be assumed to apply, regardless of whether or not a camera is fitted. This makes sense to me.
     
    Trumple likes this.
  9. sergekouper

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2014
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    128
    Location:
    London UK
    I approached a model flying club, and some seem now to start accepting UAVs, and opening their flying sites. This way, no more questions about flying there legally, no comments from the by passer and a much more relaxing experience than flying while always wondering if somebody is going to complain. Then applying the CAA rules ticks all the boxes to truly enjoy playing with your bird.
     
  10. sergekouper

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2014
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    128
    Location:
    London UK
    As the things are, SUA and SUSA are separated unless modification of article 167. In the worse case scenario it will be considered as applying or not referring to the text and not to another possible interpretation. What that means is if you crash with a sub 7 kg SUA or a SUSA within 150m of a congested area, the consequences will not be the same as far as the CAA is concerned.
    Considering your researches about this park it seems that you will be ok to fly there, judging for yourself if you believe to be in a congested area or not, applying the CAA rules regarding the safety of people and property, Having the permission from the land owner to take off , and making sure that you are not in a restricted area for any other reason.
     
    Trumple likes this.
  11. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    Thanks for your post, although I am not the OP and so it was not me researching the park, your point is still valid, but I assume it was a reply to the OP.

    As far as the point about the applicability of the two articles to SUA or SUSA, you are of course right that the distinction in law is there, and we should assume that an incident within 150m for an aircraft without an active camera, and for one with, should be treated differently. My point was, that according to the CAA, when they issue commercial permissions they dont in fact make any distinction between SUA/SUSA. They also say that Article 167 is really due for renewal anyway, since lightweight cameras are relatively common.
     
    Trumple likes this.
  12. Trumple

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    UK
    Thanks again guys. I'm still nervous of posting images and videos I take, even though I always fly safely and conservatively. I really just want to remain within the law but with such a subjective term as "substantially congested", anyone could argue either way of my judgement. I think (and I hope the CAA sees it the same way) that if you're not careless with these machines and you keep away from pretty much anything that moves or costs money, then you're fine. Flying over Alton Towers (or whatever that legal case was a while back) is the kind of stupid thing they're ultimately out to prevent, which makes perfect sense to me.
     
  13. noiseboy72

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2014
    Messages:
    575
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Lincs, UK
    I totally agree with all of the above. I am instruct at a local Air Training Corps and we have a large private country estate to fly at with the P2s and fighting quads, but of course, the cadets have all bought their own little quads and want to fly them closer to home.

    Their squadron HQ is in a town, so we insist they remove the SD card before they fly there and keep well within the boundary of the HQ, thus keeping them well away from other buildings. However, judging by the videos that go up on the YouTube channel and Squadron Facebook page, they fly over parks and residential areas as well.

    Is this really an issue with a tiny palm sized quad taking low res images? I do feel there needs to be some differentiation between a Hubsan X4c and a P3. I am all for limiting quads over 900g to 150M and those under 900g to 50M. This would still protect privacy but provide for more legitimate flying sites.
     
    Hughie likes this.
  14. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    noiseboy great point about lightweight aircraft. I am pretty sure the difference in damage between being hit on the head with a Hubsan X4 and a Phantom would be significant.
     
  15. noiseboy72

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2014
    Messages:
    575
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Lincs, UK
    For me, it's less about collisions and more about privacy. If there is a real possibility of clouting someone with your model aircraft of any size, then you should not be flying there - as it would be an unsafe flight, but the difference in resolution between a P3 and a Hubsan X4c is so huge that we can afford to fly closer to properties without causing offence.
     
  16. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    I don't necessarily agree. I think the problem with handling privacy is that it is about the perception of those who find themselves on the wrong end of a camera - not with the pilot's judgement. The issue is that anyone who sees a drone close by has no clue what type of camera or lens it is carrying, or even if it has a camera at all. I think the only way to deal with that is to keep some distance away regardless of aircraft mass.

    It might be reasonable to fly a "very" lightweight toy aircraft in a public place, the likleyhood of damage to someone in the vicinity is probably less than if they were hit with a football or a frisbee (which would likely be used in activities in the same area at the same time). But we do need a "toy" weight catergory in place in order for this to hang together.
     
  17. Compound#22

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Where do you stand on insurance? What if you crash and hit someone or cause damage to property etc? Should we have public liability insurance ?
     
  18. landmannnn

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2015
    Messages:
    350
    Likes Received:
    62
    Location:
    Coventry and Limoges
    Yes, we should. The most effective way is to join a club which offer 3rd party insurance as part of the membership.
     
  19. Hughie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,477
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    Depends what you mean by effective. If you dont want the constraints of being in a club it is not that effective. The clubs I have looked at which offer BMFA membership/insurance charge the same price that you can get it as an individual, plus the cost of being a club member. So why not just join BMFA as an individual - Its cheaper. It all depends what you want.

    For me, being in a club offers me no benefits. I cant just turn up and fly, there is understandably a queuing system, and actually I dont particularly want to limit photography the one field in the country that they fly from.
     
  20. noiseboy72

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2014
    Messages:
    575
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Lincs, UK
    http://www.fpvuk.org/ offer insurance as well. It's a little cheaper than BMFA and covers you for all flights undertaken legally.