North Somerset Drone Use (Council land)



I live in North Somerset and the council website has a policy on drones here:

You’ll notice the URL and much of the document reiterates the standard CAA rules and regulations, however it appears to assume commercial use - for example the first clause: “As a pilot you must be licensed with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)” - I assume this is meant to refer to the CAA requirements for licencing for commercial drone use. As we know, this CAA restriction does not refer to hobby use, leading me to believe the whole document is only targeted at commercial users.

As a hobbyist living in North Somerset, and someone who has appropriate public liability insurance, I would like to think that North Somerset is not restricting my use of a drone for personal and non-commercial use beyond those restrictions already laid down by the CAA.

So I wrote to them to ask.

“I have discussed your enquiry with our Health and Safety Manager, and am informed by her that the standards laid out in the drone procedure apply to all drone pilots, commercial or hobbyists, if taking off, flying over or landing on North Somerset Council owned land.”

This seems pretty draconian. I’m not even sure they -can- restrict my flight OVER their land (provided I’m following CAA 50m guidance), can they?

I assume every bit of land that isn’t privately owned is council owned. So does this mean without CAA certification and explicit permission from the council, I can’t legally fly my drone in North Somerset unless I find some remote non-council land?

I’d like to continue the discussion with the council, but would appreciate some better-informed assistance to try and make my case.

I’m a member of the BMFA if that makes any difference. I know part of their remit is to speak for the community, would they perhaps take this up with the council does anyone know?



No, they cannot.


Welcome to Grey Arrows @chris :+1:

As @BCF said, no, they cannot stop you flying over their land. They are within their rights to prevent you taking off and landing on their property, but they don’t own the airspace above it.

Commercial, hobbyist or otherwise :slight_smile:


Thanks. I wonder what the definition of taking off from their land is … I can carry a drone onto their land, that’s clear. If I did a hand launch, is that from their land, or my hand?

The rules are crazy, that much is clear - and I don’t think they understand what they have written particularly well. It seems to be written for commercial use and then just applied to any use out of laziness.

I’d like to press the point with them, however telling them they are wrong and they can’t stop me flying over their land doesn’t help much unless I’ve got somewhere to launch from :frowning:

Edit: I note that since I wrote to the council they have actually updated this document. It previously didn’t mention hobbyists and also had a requirement to notify the police before you flew.


Why not start with the drone code and explain the difference between commercial andn hobby.

There is a clarification from the CAA on a thread on here about flying in airspace and ownership.

Perhaps an approach to the bmfa for formal responses to these types of policies I would join you in ding that and so would other members of that club and this one.


Thanks. I’ve written to the BMFA to see if this is something they could help with as the rules likely affect many members living within North Somerset, even if they don’t realise.

I see from this thread North somerset county council that the council are keen to politely enforce the rules, certainly around very public areas.

I guess I’ll wait for the BMFA to come back to me before I go any further, as I suspect they’ll quite quickly get pretty dismissive of my lone voice.

For example I flew here today: - completely within CAA rules, however did I take off from council owned land? Did I fly over it? I’ve honestly no idea.


Have you checked th crown maps see link below
Take of from the shoreline when tide is out safe :grin:


Good for you, challenge the council, they are human and make mistakes.
Whoever wrote the pile of rubbish is obviously not aware of avaitaion or drone law. I’m sick to death of local councils acting as dictators.
They ought to stick to what they are paid to do, emptying the bins, keeping the streets clean, fixing the street lights and filling in potholes.


…and consider the safety of users of land they have responsibilty for. I know of a case where a rock face dropped when a person was on it. He unfortunatley died. The family took the council to court for negligence. The implication was that the council should check all land to se if there were natural disasters waiting to happen. The judge decided there was no case to answer.


They also always bang on about filming and data protection for people, what about all the cars behind me and in front of me with dash cams, everyone thinks they are a good idea but no one mentions data protection for the people being filmed with those.



Also, see below from the CAA website. In the section

“How to Apply”

it states very clearly that they issue a “Permission for Commercial Operations” (PfCO).

This is NOT a licence. Therefore their first statement “As a pilot you must be licensed with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)” is incorrect.

However, take it easy on them, we don’t want to upset them!!!

Quote from CAA, bit long but I wanted to keep the context :slight_smile:

"Permissions and/or exemptions are valid for up to 12 months and are subject to an annual renewal.

They allow flights within the UK subject to the conditions and limitations that are specified within the individual authorisation document. However, the greater the amount of ‘freedom of operation’ that you require (in terms of locations, procedures and the duration of the permission), then the greater the amount of information you need to provide us (in terms of demonstrating that you can operate safely).

A permission from the CAA is required to be held if you wish to conduct a commercial operation with your aircraft (iaw ANO 2016 article 94[5]), or if you wish to fly your aircraft:
• at a height of more than 400 ft above the surface (iaw ANO 2016 article 94A),

•within 150m of either a congested area or an organised open-air assembly of more than 1000 persons (iaw ANO2016 article 95),

•within 50m of people or properties/objects that are not under your control (iaw ANO2016 article 95)

An exemption from the CAA is required if you wish to seek release from any other requirement within ANO 2016
In both cases however, the CAA must still be suitably satisfied that the operation can be conducted safely
Two types of Permission are available;

Standard Permission

This enables a person to conduct commercial operations with a small unmanned aircraft (drone) and also permits operations within a congested area. Potential operators are required to provide evidence of pilot competence and an Operations Manual which details how the flights will be conducted.

Non-Standard Permission

This covers all other types of flight and addresses operations that contain a greater element of operating risk. In addition to the requirements for a Standard Permission, applicants are also required to prepare and submit an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to the CAA.

Full details of the pilot competence requirements and the OSC can be found in our guidance document CAP 722.

Please note that permissions and exemptions only authorise the commercial use of a drone from a safety perspective. Operators are still subject to rules and regulations imposed by other bodies and organisations. These may include the emergency services, the Highways Agency and local authorities. Before beginning a job in a particular location a permission holder should always check with all relevant bodies to establish what, if any, other restrictions apply.

Operators should also be sure they understand the rules around trespass and nuisance.

How to apply

Anyone who wants to fly a drone for commercial work (often also referred to as aerial work) needs a Permission from the CAA (take careful note that this is not a licence).

To get this Permission, you will need to:
• Remote Pilot Competence ◦ Demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice).
◦ Pass a practical flight assessment (flight test).

•Develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flights you want to do and set these out in an Operations Manual.
• If your intended operation requires an approval with greater privileges than in a Standard Permission, you will also need to provide us with an Operating Safety Case to demonstrate that the intended operation is appropriately safe."


It’s clear to me that they have misappropriated the CAA regulations for commercial aerial activity and applied them to non-commercial activity, probably because it’s easier to say no than it is to say yes - and their default assumption is that someone will want to fly recklessly.

It looks like they copied their regulations from South Somerset (or vice versa), as the S Somerset rules are very much like the N Somerset ones were before they amended them last week ( - this includes the requirement to “notify the Police that you are using a drone” which is blatantly ludicrous.


Strange?, a friend of ours, daughter had the very same thing happen at Happisburgh a couple of months or so back, she is also taking the Local Council to court for negligence of not putting up appropriate signage warning of “Cliff Falls”, they put signs up a few days after her accident !!.

What makes me smile is how they portrayed it as a “relatively small rock fall”, so !, it buried her, with only her lower legs showing !, it crushed her toddler’s Pram (her two children were paddling with the Father, when it happened), and her husband had to frantically dig her out, and thought she was dead when he did !. Lucky or what !!

It was ironic that @PaperCrane and I were only flying a few days later at very much the same spot !!.
Where we had our “Lighthouse altercation” !!


I agree with Jeff, on the beach is “Crown Property” I would quite happily fly there with the Crown Estates Jargon tucked in my kit !!


The crown maps link didn’t obviously tell me what was/wasn’t owned by them. I think I actually flew from land owned by Avon Wildlife Trust if I’m honest (not that I expect to find anyone from the council patrolling there anyway) - but it’d be nice to have some knowledge up my sleeve that said the beach area is fair game.

Edit, ah - this map seems more helpful:

Looks like I’d need to stand in a bunch of mud to be officially on their land, but it’s an option I guess!


Crown Estates property goes from Low Water mark to High Water Mark.
Always handy to have a printout of the Crown Estates area you are flying with you, on the day.


I need to drop a cd with the footage through that guys’s door. It came out well.


I’m pretty sure the data protection act 2018 (GDPR) applies to companies and organisations not individuals.
It is not for example illegal to take a picture of anyone on the street, in fact you can’t legally stop them. What they then do with that picture is another matter…model release, privacy etc

The council also have zero legislative power over and airspace above their land. This is regulated nationally.


GDPR can apply to anyone if you are processing others data.

The ICO has stated on a few occasions that it views camera drones in the same regard as CCTV.

If you have domestic cctv which films outside your property it must comply with data protection regulations.

Here’s the ICO’s view,

The capture of images of identifiable individuals, even inadvertently, when using cameras mounted to drones, will be subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The DPA contains requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of such images. The ICO has provided the following tips on the responsible use of drones where images of individuals may be captured:

Where possible let people know before you start recording;consider your surroundings.

Do not use your drone to capture images of people where to do so may intrude on their privacy

Get to know your camera first to enable you to understand what images it is likely to capture and whether it will be possible to identify individuals from those images;think before sharing your images and avoid sharing images that could have unfair or harmful consequences.

Apply the same common sense approach that you would with images or video recorded by a smartphone or digital camera; andkeep the images safe. The images you have taken may be saved on an SD card or USB drive attached to the drone or the camera.
If they are not necessary, then don’t keep them. If you do want to keep them, then make sure they are kept in a safe place and only retained for as long as they are needed.

The tips set out above for compliance with the DPA apply to the use of drones for recreational purposes. Additional rules apply to the use of drones for commercial purposes and commercial operators should ensure that they are fully aware of their obligations as data controllers when using drones for commercial purposes which could capture the images of identifiable individuals.


Still a bit of a grey area though.