Is flying over SSSIs illegal?

I am constantly seeing people on social media saying that flying over a SSSI (site of special scientific interest) is illegal.

However I have yet to see any legislation to say that it is.

Is it illegal?

Yes there may be birds nesting on SSSIs at certain times of the year - but then they also cover areas of special interest by virtue of its fauna, flora, geological or physiographical / geomorphological features.

Or is it poor generalisation of Drone Police?

There is no airspace regulation / law in place, if that’s what you’re asking? :thinking:

Common sense should prevail for any flight, naturally.


Thats the problem right there.

Which is my thought - but the way that so many repeat it has questioned my logic and I have wondered if I have missed something in relation to SSSIs

I am sure I have not and I have challenged people to show me where flying over a SSSi or an ASSI in Scotland was illegal. But nobody has ever responded with proof.

I therefore believe the experts here than those on facebook!


Might not be illegal to fly over an SSSI but if you disturb wildlife anywhere then it could be an offence in certain circumstances and SSSI are where you are more likely to do that. Plenty of places do say no drones in the SSSI in their areas, such as the Lake District.

You have got me thinking now, I am going to be in Norfolk next weekend, on the Broads, and I was going to take the drone with me (obviously) although I may not get chance to fly.

Are there any restrictions I might not have found that I should know about?

(There’s a very good chance it won’t come out of its bag anyway, but it’s good to know, just in case).

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But are they right to say that?

I accept that if you endanger wildlife that might be a crime.

Thanks for that @Doodler I had read that page, which is what prompted me to post the question here as it mentions a lot of the Broads are designated SSSI.
I think it’s going to be a case of just using my own judgment if I do get chance. As it’s towards the end of October, a lot of the reasons for not flying will not be valid, but as we all know, there is bound to be someone who takes offence, so it’s good to know the legality of it in case there are finger wagers about.

Unless there’s byelaws in place, they can’t stop you but I’d say that’s an advisory warning given the wildlife on the broads.


The only relevant law would be the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 but this isn’t strictly related to drone use, just disturbing the wildlife, particularly during nesting periods etc. Advice would be to obviously check with the land owner regarding your take-off point (usual drone code), local government relating to any byelaws in place and any relevant countryside organisations e.g. RSPB with regards to nesting periods. But as has been said, common sense applies and quite frankly, and imho, nobody is likely to care if you’re flying your drone out in the middle of nowhere (that is until the local fauna learns how to submit a noise nuisance complaint…)


The Wildlife act makes it a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly damage/disturb whatever makes an SSSI special. Whether you know its an SSSI or not.

But following from what @DroneGeek said, if the special feature is a rock, or a flower, your drone is unlikely to be an issue. Birds are the most problematic and the things to watch out for.


As above, restrictions may depend on the nature of the SSSI. One large SSSI near me is designated because of a rare moss on one slope, well away from any paths. But to be sure, I flew with the permission of the warden. You may find this info useful:

Is there a way to discover the nature of each SSSI?

You can access the Citation, Operations Requiring Natural Englands Consent (ORNECs) and the Views about Management (VAM) via The Designated Sites website: The Citation details why a site was designated. If a site is noted for it’s bird populations, be that overwintering or breeding birds, then it may also be a Special Protection Area (SPA). The Designated Sites page for a SSSI will also tell you what other designations a site is part of and give a link to the page for that designation as well.*
– If the site is also a National Nature Reserve you should contact the Reserve Manager for advice and a permit where one is needed. NE manage some NNR’s but others are managed by wildlife organisations and individual trusts. You should find information including contact details for all NNR’s here:

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Living in the Lakes it does make me wonder how my drones might impact the wildlife - then you see this! :see_no_evil:


Devils advocate … They fly over on a regular basis so wildlife would be less likely to settle & nest and the likes of the NT aren’t going to argue with the MoD :joy: