National Trust: unreasonable to drones?

This YouTube video discusses the National Trust’s policy towards drones (i.e. nowhere on our property!) in the UK and brings up some interesting points. What do you think?

What we really need (we as in drone pilots) are some updated, set in stone rules/laws.

The guy in the video was spot on on most, but not all points he raised.

The grey areas for me are:

400ft height limit - Nowhere in the ANO does it state that drones under 7kgs need to fly below 400ft. VLOS, yes, but no height is specified. OK, it’s arguable that you cannot adequately see a small drone enough to make a decision on whether it will collide with “something” even at 400ft.

Flying over people - Should never be done IMHO, period. Definitely not over large crowds or built-up areas, as you would have to be 150 metres, which would definitely put you out of VLOS for small drones anyway.

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I’m sorry.

I can’t watch this bloke at all! He proper does my tree in!!!

But, I’m aware of the blanket ban they issued, the (debatable) details of which they have published at Flying drones at our places | National Trust

Personally? I think they’re taking the piss.

Looking at each of their ‘reasons’:

  1. CAA regulations state that drones should not be flown above or near to people. As our properties often have staff living or working on site, visitors present or have open access, unauthorised drone flying is both illegal and potentially puts people at risk.

Granted. But… Most drone pilots wouldn’t want visitors/people getting in the shots anyway! Who wants to film a bunch of random people? This is why I usually go places at the crack of dawn, because I don’t want people in my stuff :slight_smile:
I think they’re playing on the ‘staff living on site’ bit to use this as a blanket because there will always be staff living/working there.

  1. Few non-commercial users have the correct training or permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to operate drones.

That’s right, they don’t. But what most non-commercial users do have, is experience. We have hours and hours (and hours!) of flying behind us.

  1. If a drone causes damage or harm, pilots generally do not have the correct insurances, or level of insurances, to adequately compensate those affected.

True. Some will have public liability insurance, some won’t. In fairness to the Trust, I’d suggest that perhaps less than 20% of hobbyists have insurance?

  1. Some sites may have wildlife or agricultural animals, or animals which are sensitive to disturbance, such as birds and deer herds, which could be alarmed or stressed by the presence of drones, especially at breeding times.

Some sites will. Some sites won’t. You could just give us a list or mention it on your web site? Plus, if we’re flying in a Trust site, we’re probably there to capture buildings, not flying randomly across woodland and fields.

  1. Many drones have cameras attached and these could infringe data protection laws (filming people without permission) and potentially could contravene National Trust rules on commercial photography and filming.


  1. The presence of drones can impinge on the quiet enjoyment of our sites by other visitors and therefore potentially presents a public nuisance risk.

See # 1

{PingSpike pulls up a chair and grabs the popcorn}
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Let me start by saying I’m an NT member, and a big fan - they don’t always get everything right, but just imagine the beautiful places we wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the NT and the right of inalienable land (Runnymede was my playground when I was a kid).

I do understand some of their arguments - an NT property or garden, on a Bank Holiday Monday, heaving with people, is clearly not the place to be flying. Not that flying would be possible anyway, of course, as a Bank Holiday Monday guarantees rain and gale force winds.

Anyway, the NT owns an awful lot more land than the very popular properties - we can all go walking not too far from wherever we live, on NT land, and quite probably not see another soul.

I was thinking of this while “looking” at an ancient hill fort on NT land recently - way beyond my levels of imagination, but it did get me thinking that often these things are often very visible from the air, and I wondered what the Mavic would be able to see. Nobody else about, but no flying - blanket ban.

I was also thinking at a non-NT house garden we visited a while back. Quite a formal garden, only the gardener about on a weekday - if it hadn’t been for the wind, which was strong, I’d have asked if a flight was possible - we can always share the photo, can’t we?

So, more thinking…

  • the majority of us can only go to such places at weekends, which is when everybody else goes
  • early morning is all well and good, but most places are staffed by volunteers, or people with beds to go to, so anything with a gate won’t be so easily accessible, though it might be from the air
  • it makes no sense to have blanket ban on swathes of empty countryside - if it’s okay for the Pembrokeshire National Park and the Norfolk Broads, there’s no reason for it not to be okay on NT coastline, for example (has anybody seen how dangerous people can be with kites?)
  • the NT has already caught on to a fund-raising idea of running limited tours, for small groups, before general opening, sometimes free for members, sometimes for a nominal fee
  • the staff and volunteers at NT and non-NT sites are normally incredibly helpful (if there are any other bikers here, you’ll probably know how helpful they are for reserving parking etc for club runs, same for classic cars)
  • more people will buy drones, so the “problem” will not go away - and a blanket ban will, like any blanket ban, force some to circumvent/ignore the ban, which is likely to be more dangerous than a controlled approach

So, how about, National Trust, you replace a blanket ban on open countryside with a more common sense approach, and how about you arrange flying events, before general opening hours, at selected properties. Maybe start with gardens, where even if we do manage to crash, the only damage is likely to be a bent tulip? Obviously numbers/flying time will need to be limited, else there’ll be carnage, but it might be worth a thought?

Maybe it’s worth thinking about approaching them?


Welcome to the Grey Arrows @Renni-Aire, great first post :smiley:

It may well be worth approaching NT to start a dialogue around flexibility.

I imagine there’d be a department within NT that handles this kind of rule-setting?

Yes, bit mega hectic here at the mo, but thought I’d give that a go - will be towards the end of the month before I get round to it

Well, I finally got round to doing just that.

The NT website lists a number of reasons for banning drones in bullet point format. Some are perfectly reasonable, some, it seems to me, a little less so and indeed contradict the Drone Code. For example, they state:

Drones should not be flown over people; as much of our land is open access we cannot guarantee an area, even if remote, is completely empty

which is not what the Drone Code says at all.

More than happy to post my email, if anybody wants me to, but it does go on a bit!

I concluded with a few suggestions:

  1. An outright ban is hard to enforce, so better, especially for open areas, a controlled usage policy which people are more likely to abide by
  2. Over open land, use that policy to enforce/discourage anti-social flying and wildlife-aware flying
  3. The NT already has a policy of “before hours” tours and suchlike, for which they charge a small fee. We did an art tour last year at Upton House - normally, I’m not one for really looking at the art work (heathen) but it was actually really interesting and brought the works to life. Other houses and places of interest charge a nominal fee for photographs - not a bad way of raising much needed funds. One of my suggestions was that the NT could combine these two ideas - open early for a “drone special” and charge a small fee. the only problem would be the weather, of course.

The Trust has replied in, I think, a positive way:

Thank you for your email regarding our drone flying policy, in which you pose very reasonable challenges to our existing position

They go on to say that they intend to review their policy, though they will wait for the government’s white paper on the use of drones, and the associated amendments to the Air Navigation Order, due in the spring. Makes sense - no point in doing something that might immediately have to be changed because of new legislation.

We’ve exchanged a few more emails since, and they’ve said:

When it comes to our policy review it would be useful to have a user or group available to answer questions

for which I seem to have volunteered us (or me at least).

So, no overnight changes, but it all sounds quite positive.

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I fly over their land all the time. 95% of Cornwall is NT.

I had one ranger challenge me over it while I was flying, but soon shut up when I told him I’d taken off from the back of my pick up outside of the NT car park and will also land in the same place.

Got a “huummm” and walked off leaving me standing there smug :smirk::fu:


I haven’t actually bought my drone yet, but if you want a hand with this dialogue with the NT, I’m happy to volunteer!

I was going to suggest this as probably the best way forwards. Shout if you need a hand.

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Colin, I take my hat off to you my good man :tophat:

You have more patience that I do :smiley:

Which in itself is great news too! It would be great to get our collective views heard by the right people at NT !

Please keep us updated??


Will do, thanks

Of course :slight_smile:

Well done, I doff my cap sir

Also wishing you good luck in your quest.

Do I detect a bit of a David and Goliath situation here. I mean the might of GADC up against the venerable types of the NT? They don’t stand a chance. :wink:

This ban is similar to all US National Parks, but the US Parks at least quote the right text, stating you may not operate a drone from within their ground. That would be a good place to suggest to the NT to amend their text. Most dronies are aware of the rules, so when confronted with rules that are blatently wrong and unenforceable, they may well ignore them. But being told you can’t operate from within their land, and making more emphasis on the wild life and nature aspect, and the peace, quiet and beauty element may well gain more adherence.
Just because you can fly doesn’t mean you should. But spouting a load of nonsense in the rules is not the right way to go about it.

Ian’s 2 pence worth :slight_smile:

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I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’m an NT member and support most of their causes and events but a no, nay, never policy to flying drones seems to be a big missed opportunity for attracting new members, spreading the brilliant videos on social media, etc. At the same time, as a member, I don’t want to be subjected to incessant buzzing whilst there. Might I suggest designated ‘Drone Days’ where, say, once a season, flying would be permitted (maybe even dawn before the 10am public opening to get the best sunrise shots!)? Would also benefit the drone community by giving a fixed time and place for people to meet.

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I was thinking along the same lines as Paul. Charge us some money to go flying on designated days. They could lower the price to non flyers as well allowing people the chance to talk to us flyers and giving those on limited budgets the opportunity to take the family out.

Like Paul says we would rather be there early / late in the day anyway to get the best footage.

I think it simply comes down to that the NT charge to visit their sites. Members through membership and non members at the door. If you fly over then essentially you just saved yourself that cost and they don’t get the cash injection to maintain their sites. If they allowed paying guests to fly, then it would be complicated to manage. Easier to blanket the issue.

Also they would not want to close their site to the minority and stop the general public from entering. It’s not in the NTs usual theme to close their gates.

I guess that there is also an element of the usual well… I don’t have a drone and don’t understand them. Therefore I’m jumping on the haters bandwagon because I just need something to hate to be happy… so none should be allowed to use one either.

I’m an NT member and for the last 4 years, when asking to fly over their sites, I have only got permission twice at the gate. I think it was only because the staff were either clueless as to what a quadcopter was or just excited to watch something fly.

This was one of my suggestions when I wrote my lengthy email to them. They already do something similar with “pre-opening tours” at many properties, and they’re actually always very good along the same lines for car clubs etc.

I suggested they did exactly as @paul1664 says, with maybe an afternoon “ roped off session” along the same lines as @AllatSea mentions to bring in the general public, some of whom might be paying people who otherwise wouldn’t have gone along - after all, the NT already does historical things along the same lines.

The fly in the ointment, of course, is our dependency on weather, with the danger of the designated day being wet/windy.

But, I think the more “win-win” suggestions like these the better

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How accurate, I don’t know, but I was informed a couple of years ago that the issue is liability.
If the NT charges people for admission, at the gate or by membership, they become liable should a visitor be injured by a drone flying from their property, for not taking due care to minimise risk.

That makes sense as drone will be a variable out with their control.

If pilots followed drone code, risk could be minimised but how would they enforce that.

Pilots could have their own public liability insurance but if they fly negligently it would be void leaving NT liable.

It is a tricky one and I can sort of see their logic.