Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 a.k.a. "Your papers, please"

Royal Assent has been given to the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill yesterday, so it will become an Act shortly.

I couldn’t see a final version of the Bill at Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 publications - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament but the version seems near-final.

How does this affect drone users? It’s basically a case of “Your papers, please”.

Tl;dr version
Get in the habit of carrying your registration, competence and Article 16 paperwork with you (electronically is fine); and also confirmation emails from an ATC if you are flying in an FRZ. The police will get new powers to stop you and demand you provide evidence that you are compliant with drone regulation requirements.

More detail
Although there are lots of regulations and offenses related to drones, the police have previously lacked powers to get evidence. If they asked you to stop flying your drone or to show them your competence certificate, you could refuse (unless they had reasonable suspicion you were committing a crime). Under Schedule 9 of the new law, they can stop you and ask for your paperwork whether or not they think you’re doing anything wrong.

They will now be able to ask you to provide evidence that you comply with any competence requirement (e.g. A2 CofC) in the Open or Specific category (i.e. this includes flights under Article 16 or GVC/PfCO). They can also ask you for evidence that the drone is registered, and to provide the identity of the Pilot/Operator (to help them confirm the registration).

If you’re within an FRZ, they can now ask you to provide proof you have the ATC’s consent. They can ask for any consent required under the Air Navigation Order - they can’t ask for evidence of any other consents that may be required e.g. from landowners.

They can now require you to let them inspect your drone (presumably to check for the registration number, or to check the weight). Obviously that means you can be required to land it if they ask you to.

If you don’t have any of the paperwork or evidence with you, you get seven days to present them at a police station.

Under Schedule 10 minor offences under the drone legislation can now be dealt with via Fixed Penalty Notices (minor generally meaning anything that hasn’t caused nuisance, damage, endangered an aircraft etc - the serious stuff still goes to court). I’d guess it could be an FPN for not having a registration number displayed, for example.

The new legislation includes a power for the government to later amend it to include other evidence for the police to demand. I’m guessing that could include evidence about electronic conspicuity systems working correctly, if/when that becomes widely required.

If I’ve read it all correctly, these new powers come into force at the end of June (two months from date of Royal Assent). It’s quite possible I’ve not read it all correctly, so apologies if I’ve got anything wrong.


Very similar to ‘fullsize’ pilots as regards licence/ documents etc…

1 Like

Yes, it’s been in the offing for ages, I think there was another bill that got cancelled due to Brexit or proroguing Parliament or something.

The only risk I can see is that the wording of the legislation is fairly complicated, and you could get some police officer who thinks they can ask for more than is in it e.g. ask you to show permissions that aren’t covered under the ANO.

I bet we will wait a long time before someone on this forum reports this actually being used.

1 Like

I think it’s like anything, there’s a law to suggest that if they thing you’re doing something wrong, they will ask you to produce. But are unlikely to enforce it.

Like driving 80mph on the motorway, countless times I’ve had the police over take me cruising in the outside lane faster than this. It’s only if it looks like you’d be a danger, I.e. swerving or on a mobile phone or exceeding 100 that they would even take the time.

So I think unless you get a really bored police officer, it’s not a huge amount to worry about and would likely be a 14 day to produce proof situation at your local station

1 Like

I carried a CAA warrant card for exactly this sort of thing when I worked in
CAA /NATS. I used it once on a pilot who had infringed ATC rules and found he did not carry his licence. It was at CAA HQ for renewal.
As regards rule infringement I gather he was told not to do it again! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

1 Like

Personally I do not see it as a worry for most of us. We are all registered and fly responsibly. In fact this may be a good thing to help lift the public perception of drones (I know, not straight away) as these rules may help to stop the illegal and irresponsible flyers.


Or give the Facebook village brigade more reason to call the Po Po.


Good point, but again, I think the police would not be able to follow up every fb call and even if they did come up to me, I would be happy that I know I am in the right. Just have to hope that they do.

1 Like

The Act will also support the safe practice of drone technology by giving police officers the necessary powers to tackle illegal misuse. This will include issuing fixed penalty notices, mandating a person to land an unmanned aircraft and introducing stop and search powers where offences involving an unmanned aircraft have been committed.


I support this line of thinking. When talking to people who have been unhappy about my missions it has helped to discuss the current legislation and compliance. Ultimately I don’t want people around me and my equipment to be uncomfortable I will just end up feeling the same way however understanding the hoops I jump through can sometimes put people at greater ease.


Just reviewed schedule 8-10. Requirements to prove and show certification, authorization of relevant flights. Well needed powers for folks not behaving.
Schedule 10 1 (3) is interesting - annoyance/nuisance to people in a premises. First time ive seen this mentioned.

Power to issue fixed penalty notices
1 (1)
This paragraph applies where a constable has reason to believe that a person (P) aged 18 or over is committing, or has committed, a fixed penalty offence.
(2) The constable may give P a fixed penalty notice in respect of the fixed penalty offence if Condition A and Condition B are met.
(3) ConditionA:theconstablebelievesthatPdidnot,anddidnotintendto—
(a) endanger any other aircraft (whether or not an unmanned aircraft),
(b) cause any person harm, harassment, alarm or distress,
***** (c) cause any person occupying any premises nuisance or annoyance****
relating to their occupation of the premises,
(d) undermine security or good order and discipline in any prison or in
any other institution where persons are lawfully detained,
(e) disturb public order, or
(f) damage property (including land or buildings),
when committing the fixed penalty offence.
(4) ConditionB:theconstableobtainsP’snameandaddress.

1 Like

How many police officers will be even aware that this legislation exists? I would venture to suggest none. Our underfunded, undermanned and overworked police have far more important and urgent matters to deal with. Unless, of course, some idiot does something dangerous/illegal and seriously injures someone. I suspect the only time a copper will approach you is if he/she’s also a drone flyer, or is just plain curious.
That from a retired Traffic Cop😇


What will be interesting to read will be the NPCC guidance for this legislation once passed.

As it will be that which will give you a steer on how forces will approach it.

" This Bill received Royal Assent on Thursday 29th April 2021 and was enacted into law."

1 Like

I’m coping with the same retirement :wink: Agree completely. Although some people attract justice!