CAA definition of 'Crowds and built up areas'

For clarity, this thread refers to hobbyist flights only, not flights conducted under PfCO.

As you’re aware, section 4 of the Drone Code web site relates to keeping the correct distance from people and property.

For reference I attach the (current) Drone Code PDF as it has a bit more detail than the slides on the DroneSafe web site.

Dronecode_2018-07-30.pdf (136.9 KB)

The above Drone Code states:

Keep the right distance from people and property

People and properties – 150ft (50m)

Crowds and built up areas – 500ft (150m) and don’t overfly

The “crowds and built up areas” reference has often prompted questions from Grey Arrows members around the specific definition of a ‘crowd’, and indeed that of a ‘built up area’.

People have sometimes asked if 50 people is a crowd, or 500? And similarly, what exactly constitutes a built up area? :thinking:

In a bid to gain a definitive answer to these commonly-asked questions we contacted CAA directly and put the questions to them, asking for a clear and concise definition of each.

We spoke with Jonathan Nicholson, Assistant Director of Corporate Communications. He said,

With regards to built up areas, Nicholson said:

So perhaps still open to some interpretation but the bottom line being, use your common sense :+1:t2:


So - 4999 people OK - 5000 not OK. :wink:
“Hey everyone! Keep still, ffs!!! I’m counting you!!!”

I’d like to see a prosecution using either of those as the criteria! :rofl:

I think I need a pdf of the CAA’s response to show anyone that ever questions me. :+1:


Thanks Rich it’s been mentioned a lot lately and there are so many interpretations that you could shake a stick at it was and is a minefield

Ikopa mentioned it this week he is reluctant to give an answer

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As a relative newbie, I have been pretty impressed with the “sensibleness” of the CAA replies when “clarification” has been sought.

It contrasts somewhat with some of the “bodies/orgnanisations” replies that we are seeking to fly OVER;)


Agreed :+1:t2:

let’s hope that sense and sensibility prevail next year with them, when new legislation is almost a certainly going to come into operation (we think?)

Yes, “The End is Nye”.
Next year will be the year of the outlaw, as the majourity of using take to flying in cognito. The skies will be full of bandits delivering drugs with their licenced quadcopter, NOT!
We have gone European in concept if not in membership and abandoned our sense of British freedom. It is too late for us “hobby” fliers.

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This is just one of so many things that the CAA needs to decide on and then officially publish during the changes next year. I obviously believe this response but I can’t give a printout of somebody on a forum forwarding a message on from the CAA if anybody questions me when I’m out flying?

They should take responses like this and put it on their website for all to see, unless we all email them the same question so we get our own email direct from the CAA :joy:

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Hi @ataraxia , and welcome to GADC.

It would be great if you posted something about yourself in #introductions if you have a few minutes.

If you haven’t already, take a look at the Map of Members. This is a relatively new feature so not everyone is on there as yet … but the map is useful to know which other members live in your area.

(Don’t forget to add yourself to that map : Members’ Location Map - A Guide)

Also, if you’ve not seen it, check out our map of places where members have flown that might be of assistance.:

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The whole built up area thing/definition had me scratching my head for a bit too.

I found this…

… find the area you are interested in and then click the ‘Data Tab’.

I have not been able to find any other resources like this, so if someone has something better, please share it.



Things may have changed since 2011?

But if (as per the initial post) the CAA can’t come up with a “definition”, then it remains something that is open to flexible interpretation.

It’s based on Census data, so yeah, things will have changed… next update due in 2021.

Are there any other reference sources available?


Even in the 2021 version - when it appears - it’s based on Census data using undisclosed (that I can see) criteria … beyond specifying the grid size as 50m.
But nothing to advise what the trigger statistic is to label it as “built up”. Is it a population density? In which case that could render industrial areas as non-built-up. Could be fun! :smiling_imp:

I’d need to see something official that’s developed for the purpose of defining Built up Area for drone flying before I would consider it applicable.

And, no, I’ve seen nothing that would be.

Collins Dictionary defines “Built-up area” as “A built-up area is an area such as a town or city which has a lot of buildings in it.”

It defines a lot as “A lot of something or lots of it is a large amount of it.”

All rather abstract!

Obviously, street after street of urban housing without any parks or breaks, I think we can (probably) assume is “built-up”.
Field after field of otherwise featureless countryside, I think we can take as not being built-up.

But - when does one become the other? How grey is the transition from one to the other? :man_shrugging:

Whilst it remains something without a definition, I’d imagine it would be very difficult for anyone to be prosecuted in cases where common sense judgement is subjective.

And a test case would need to be brought for a legal definition to be created.

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Yeah, I’d like that too! :+1:

I get the idea that using common sense should win the day, but the common sense displayed by us as drone operators will not be the same as that exercised by some members of the drone hating public. I’d love to be able to completely disarm any objections by putting an ‘offical’ map infront of those people…

I’ve yet to have my first ‘run in’… :crazy_face:

I wouldn’t. It’s bound to be excessively restrictive.

Ditto - in six and a half years of drone flying.

Just be aware - they can turn into flying strimmers!
Keep a safe distance near where folks are

I’m not seeing the relevance to built-up areas. :man_shrugging:

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Built up areas are full of peoples

I think the buildings and bricks are of secondary concern.?

So - don’t fly near people = give up flying drones. People tend to get everywhere.

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