Groundless prohibition rules (and a nice evening flight around Stonehenge)

This video I posted last week attracted a fair bit of discussion over the ability of landowners or managers to prohibit the flight of drones over their land.
English Heritage and the National Trust are two such organisations, who I admire and support, but not in the context of prohibiting drones unless you’ve paid them their hefty approval fee which is their policy on drone flying.

I understand the need for considerate flying, irrespective of the rights and rules, hence in this case I waited until closing time. But the irony is that everyone visiting Stonehenge has a camera or a phone, and the site is 50 metres away from thundering lorries and cars all day long. So the idea of privacy or disturbance kind of goes out the window,

I also had a surprising amount of grief from one PFCO-enabled drone pilot on youtube who was quite relentless in his assertion that this was an illegal flight because I hadn’t got permission from the landowner and his assertion it is in a No Fly Zone (which of course it’s not - Larkhill Resturcted Airspace is just to the North, but even that is not a no fly zone).
I took off from common ground outside the National Trusts & English Heritage’s boundaries. I didn’t fly close to people, stayed above 50 metres and below 400’, staying in VLOS, so with that, I think this flight was completely legitimate.

Always good to hear others’ opinions on this though.

Anyway, turn the volume up, relax and enjoy a flight around the West Country, all done within CAA rules, and all done without disturbing anyone…

{ADMIN EDIT: Copied the CAA reply from post # 12 to this first post}

Well, in my books, the CAA make the rules for the sky, and this morning I got confirmation back from the CAA on this very subject. Here’s the full text of my email and their response, which makes it clear for me:


All looks fine to me.
I wonder if that PFCO guy has ever driven @ 71mph on a motorway? That’s DEFINITELY ILLEGAL! No question! No excuse! :wink:


I saw the video on YT and commented. Personally, I see it as following the Drone code as it is laid out for us. At no point does it state that you have to ask for the landowners permission.

I did have a look at the landowners rights to the sky above their property, as much as the t’interweb gives you, and as long as it does not interfere with their enjoyment of the property there is no actual legal limit.

Here is a quote which appears to be the general rule:

You also own, and have rights in the airspace above your property; however, these rights are limited. There are two types of airspace – the lower and upper stratums.

The lower stratum
This is the airspace immediately above/around the land. Interference with this air space would affect the landowner’s reasonable enjoyment of the land and the structures upon it. You can prevent people from interfering with or intruding on this airspace. For instance, projecting eaves or advertising signs, and tower cranes being used for construction work on neighbouring land but which swing across your airspace.

The higher stratum
This is the airspace which exists above the height which is reasonably acceptable and necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land by its owner – around 500 to 1000 feet above roof space level (Section 76 Civil Aviation Act 1982). Landowners have no greater rights to this airspace than any other member of the public.

This makes for an interesting read, a case brought for trespass by a plane taking a photograph of a property:


An interesting read. I had already read that case that was subsequently dismissed. I see the key being all about persistence and harassment. interesting that all the examples of possible intrusions in the lower stratum are static or slow moving and crucially non-flying objects. The Air Navigation Order 2016 Article 95 specifically outlines the concept of the 50 metre distance for camera drones to avoid privacy and harassment issues.
And I also understood harassment is against a specific person, not a group or managing agent like EH or the NT.
Be great to have a test case. Just as long as that’s not me :slight_smile:



In any case, the drone code is most definitely not the law. This is the law

The only thing I think may be on the edge here is that you appear to possibly overfly people and cars on occasion. This is not allowed unless they are ‘in your control’ but the video is not clear that this is happening, it is just a possibility.

As long as there are no by-laws at these locations specifically prohibiting the take off and landing of models on common land you are good in my opinion. Landowners can not stop you overflying their land. I do not see any crowds of +1,000 people that you need to stay away from.

Gotta love a keyboard warrior and their preachy comments on posts, getting a cert seems to make some think they are the traffic wardens of our hobby :joy:

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As long as you are 50m/150ft away or above you can overfly people and property, just not large crowds or built up areas then you have to be 150m/500ft away. The 150m/500ft rule means you cannot overfly as this would take you over the 400ft ceiling limit.

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ha… cheers Frogmouth…You can’t see the several comments from him that I had to delete; I think he’d had a few too many gins…
One point I’m interested in though; you mention about flyng over people and cars. Where specifically does it say you can’t do that in the CAA regs? I get the 'congested area & +1,000 people 150m horizontal rule, but for everything else, I have seen CAA advice that indicates this is a bubble, implying you can fly over them even if they’re not in your control.

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Thanks Paul
I understood the CAA rules as a 150 m horizontal limit (as otherwise FPV exemption flying would allow you to fly higher than 150m), but the general 50m limit for individual structures and people is a bubble.
Either way, I’ve not seen any rule against flying over cars or individual people as you say…

It’s not a reg in itself about the overflight, but it is mentioned in a few places in guidance though such as

So it is guidance on interpretation of what is safe flying and what may be used in a prosecution to determine what is reasonable safety protocol. They do not specify an allowed height in the guidance, simply to avoid low overflight. When I went on the police drone course they advised that all flying at under 2,000 feet is considered low flying by the military and law enforcement for example. So there is room it seems for interpretation of any overflight as unsafe and therefore not allowed. In essence they said it was about if you lost a prop and your drone banked somebody on the head etc!

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But isn’t that like saying ‘Never cross the road in case you get hit by a car?’

From that document it essentially quotes the drone code that is being punted by the govt:

4.2.3 Article 167 – Small unmanned surveillance aircraft
‘(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the
aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in
accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:
(a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
(b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than
1,000 persons;
© within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the
control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
(d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance
aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small
unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in
charge of the aircraft.

As you say, it is peoples interpretation of the code vs landowners permission vs common sense.

I’m with you all the way on this one. There’s too many armchair lawyers about telling people they can’t do tho or that.

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Well, in my books, the CAA make the rules for the sky, and this morning I got confirmation back from the CAA on this very subject. Here’s the full text of my email and their response, which makes it clear for me:

11:53 (4 hours ago)

Dear Sir

Thank you for your email

They do not own the airspace and if you abide by the ANO and other airspace restrictions in that area e.g. NOTAMs then you may operate.

Thank you,

Thomas Guest
UAV Services
Civil Aviation Authority
Tel: 0330 022 1908
Follow us on Twitter: @UK_CAA

From: Ian []
Sent: 13 June 2018 16:48
To: InfoServices
Subject: Question on the prohibition of consumer drones over private land

I am after advice concerning private hobbyist flying of a consumer drone (Mavic Pro) which is around 750 grams and does have a camera.

As I understand the Air Navigation Order 2016, specifically ‘Article 95 – Small unmanned surveillance aircraft’, the main rules can be simply summarised as:

  1. Stay at least 150 metres horizontally away from any congested built up area, or crowded area with more than 1,000 persons (implying I cannot fly over such an area).

  2. Stay at least a 50 metre bubble away from any structure or person not under my control (implying I can fly over such land at an altitude of 50 metres or more).

  3. Stay under 400 feet in altitude from take-off point.

  4. Stay in Visual Line of Sight

  5. Observe any permanent or temporary restrictions from NATS, which I do via their Drone Assist app.

It is the second point I wanted clarified.

My question is:
Can a landowner prohibit aerial flights over their property?
I understand they can prohibit ground-based activity, (ie take-off / landing / flight control) from their land, but can they prohibit me from simply flying over?

The CAA has implemented a 50 metre bubble rule to avoid privacy and harassment issues, so my understanding is that the CAA controls airspace, not the landowner, as long as I maintain an altitude of at least 50 metres.

Can you confirm?
Many thanks



Short, sweet, and unambiguous! :+1:

My kind of regulatory answer!

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Thanks for getting that clarification, Ian. Valuable information which I think we all will find useful in our drone operations.


We have some Dolphins here in Aberdeen easily within drone distance. Now I have not flown anywhere near them as I do not know the rules for this. I have still to contact the Dolphin watch people who are there most days. So if and when I do I might ask them to be my spotters for the Dolphins safety. My question is how close can I fly safely without disturbing them?


How far out are they mate? Are they about all the time?

Thanks for sharing that @ianinlondon :+1:

As @OzoneVibe said, it’s exactly the kind of clarity we need :+1:

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Superb post Ian.

I think a lot of new pilots will come across your videos, so good that your not only flying responsibly but also cutting through the BS we hear on a daily basis.



Nice one @ianinlondon :+1:

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