Drone use

Newcastle City Council is receiving increasing numbers of enquiries about the use of drones in the city. Drones may be also be referred as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

The City Council's View

The City Council has taken the view that it will refuse any request made for recreational or commercial purposes as a land owner on any land owned or operated by the City Council. To make it clear consent shall not be given for drones overflying the highway. 

Government Announcement

On the 22 July 2017 Government announced that drones will have to be registered and users will have to sit safety awareness tests under new rules to regulate their growing use.  

Owners of drones weighing 250 grams and over will in future have to register details of their drones to improve accountability and encourage owners to act responsibly.


All civil aircraft flying in the United Kingdom are subject to the Civil Aviation Act 1982. This Act gives power to the Secretary of State to make secondary legislation referred to as Air Navigation Orders.The key legislation is the Air Navigation Order 2016 and the associated Rules of the Air Regulations 2015

Civil Air Authority

All commercial drone operators must be in possession of a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) permission document. Any drone in a congested area or within 50 metres of a building, whether for private or commercial purposes will require such a document. The operator will have to show that they are 'sufficiently competent'. If the drone weighs more than 20 KG's then it is only legal to use in certified 'danger areas'.

'Congested area' is defined as being 'any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes'.

The drone must be flown 'within sight', meaning 400 feet in altitude or 500 feet horizontally. Explicit permission from the CAA is required if these distances are to be exceeded. 

Failure to obtain permission from the CAA could result in a prosecution under the Air Navigation Order 2016. The penalty, on summary conviction, being a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale (£2500).

The CAA permission only addresses the flight safety aspects of the flight operation and does not constitute permission to disregard the legitimate interests of other statutory bodies such as Northumbria Police and the other Emergency services and the Highway Agency.


Recording images of people without their consent could be construed as a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 or the CCTV code of practice. The Information Commissioner's Office makes the distinction between 'hobbyists' and individuals/organisations who use the drones for professional/commercial purposes. However the CCTV Code of Practice states that "it will be good practice for domestic users to be aware of the potential privacy intrusion which the use of UAS can cause to make sure they are used in a responsible manner".

In advance of filming the drone operator must ensure that they have:

Permission from the Civil Aviation Authority

Permission from the owner or manager of the land to be used for take-off and landing of the drone,
Control over the area they intend to use the drone within. This includes and persons or vehicles in the area.
Please note: This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help individuals and businesses to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the legislation for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.

For further information, please contact Public Safety, Regulation and Development, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH. Email: psr@newcastle.gov.uk

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