Flying on private property

Hello all,

I’m a university student that wants to do an experiment that involves operating UAVs. The nature of the experiment is not relevant (wireless networks), but I planned to fly UAVs over some fields owned by my uni. The UAVs in question are self-built and weight around 1.2kgs. My understanding from the UK drone regulations is that my UAVs are considered A2 transitional aircrafts, and can’t therefore be flown within 50m horizontally from uninvolved persons and that I need an A2CoC to operate them.

Here’s my question: Does the 50m horizontal limit still apply if flying in private property with permission of the owner? My uni has given me preliminary permission for my experiment, however, I don’t think I can cordon-off the entire flight area so no uninvolved person gets within the 50m limit. Am I still able to perform this flight legally? For reference, my uni appears as a yellow area in and in the AirMap and Drone Assist apps.

The 50m separation is in aviation law and applies everywhere. It’s irrelevant who owns the land. It’s intended to protect the safety of people who are not involved in your drone operation.

You are lucky to be in the transitional period. After it ends, a self- built drone of that weight is relegated to A3 only.

However …

You could join a model flying club like FPVUK and fly under Article 16, if the land is either non-urban or primarily recreational in nature. “Education” is allowed under Article 16. “Research” may not be though. If this is an option, you can reduce your separation distance to a 30m bubble, which may be enough.

If that’s no good I think your only (legal) options are to find a different location or to pursue an Operational Authorisation from the CAA.


Thank you for your response, it’s very informational. I’ll look into FPVUK as a potential option for me.


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You could always get a group of volunteers together to act as a warning net around your flight area - they can be in communication with an observer by your side (phone or something) who can then warn you if anyone is approaching the 50m limit and from what direction - you can then take avoidance action as appropriate to maintain separation until they have gone.

Your University may already have an operational authorisation from the CAA and pilots who can fly your aircraft under it. It may be worth checking.

wrt education … is this experiment being done as part of your course? (e.g. undergrad project, or postgrad study?). If so, I think you could argue it is being done for ‘educational’ purposes … i.e. your education.

If you join FPVUK you also get £5 mill public liability insurance, which should keep your Uni finance department happy.

Also, under Article 16 you need to do a risk assessment (in urban recreational areas) - that would keep your H&S department and academic supervisor happy too.


Uni I work for the PL requirement is £10m

Check if the HS department have a drone policy, it might be hidden in the risk assessment for contractors or drop them an email.

*edit - Just checked our policy and the Universities own insurance covers UAV’s for use for education/research activity as long as all the CAA requirements to fly are met.


Any chance it’s Reading Uni? I’m asking because all the fields around my area are their property :roll_eyes:

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£10 Mill … ouch!

Off topic, but if you need liability insurance (up to £25m) check this out:


Thanks for your response, I’ll check with my uni regarding the CAA operational authorisation. Cordoning off might be unfeasible though. The experiment is about multi-hop wireless networks between the drones, which means I need to fly them at a significant distance from each other and even lower the transmission power of relevant radios. I don’t think I can cordon off such an area.

In my original plan, I misunderstood the definition of the C1 class and thought if I would lower the weight of my units to 900g or less and fly them at low speed mode, I could get away with the 5m separation from uninvolved people. I know understand that doesn’t apply to my self-built drones :frowning:

Thanks for your input, I will check what the coverage requirements are for mine.

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Nope, I’m more in the East, but similar story to you. Most fields around here are uni property and we have a couple of airfields nearby as well, so there’s limited areas where I can run my experiment.

If you can get them below 500g you can fly them in A1 transitional, though.



I had considered that a few days ago, although that would probably require me to rebuild them, buy ultra-light frames, possibly new motors, etc. I can fly A1 transitional class UAVs under the A1 subcategory, correct?

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Another Uni employee here. We have drone policies in place and someone who is quite knowledgeable when it comes to these things and will be able to answer your 50m concerns and will have no doubt come across this already and have some plans of what you can do, that will probably involve you filling out a risk assessment and flight plan if not already done.

You’ve already gained permission from your Uni, so unless they don’t know the answers to your questions either, hence your asking here, I would just go back to whoever has given you permission. If it came via an Academic, bypass them and go straight to Professional Services, or even just search your uni name and drones in google and you’ll probably get a direct hit of who to contact or be pointed to a form.


:point_up_2: This


Rather than using the Uni fields, are there any friendly farmers with land in the middle of nowhere nearby who would give you permission to TOAL?

Could always put something in your Unis internal bulletins - see if anyone has family farming connections nearby?

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The transitional version of A1 yes. You need an A2 CofC, and can’t deliberately overfly anyone, unlike proper A1, where you can.

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You could join fpv UK which gives you 15m take off 30m bubble from uninvolved people and insurance 5 mill public liability cover. Check it out 19.99 per year. This is for hobby flying only

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As above, not sure this would cover the OP for education/research @FPVUK Simon can prpbably clarify?