Oil Refineries / Power Stations

Hi all,

first post but got to start somewhere!!

Anyway, I was wondering where we stand legally if overflying places like oil refineries/power stations/working dockyards/steel works etc?

Let’s assume that you are flying a Mini 2 and you can operate within the altitude/distance limits etc. and you are flying from a public place is there anything that would prevent you flying over a refinery and getting some interesting night shots?

Thanks for any info:)

I would just watch out for NFZs - I know that some have them preventing flights close by.

But if they do not exist, then the airspace is fine.

Or that is my understanding…

Hi @helidan and welcome to GADC.

I live less than a mile away from the UK’s largest power station and it regularly features in my photos (boring, but its close).

Having been pulled by security a few times, there is always the thought that you may be a terrorist, buzzing around ‘major infrastructure’ can raise suspicions.

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Thanks for the very prompt replies guys!

Firstly I always check apps like Drone Assist for any restrictions.

The area of particular interest to me is the Milford Haven waterway situated West Wales.
It has one fairly large refinery situated to the South, a power station to the East of the refinery and then numerous terminals (including a LNG site) dotted elsewhere.

I’ve had a run in with the Police years ago after taking pics of the refinery (was flying close to but NOT over it), plod said that because the images showed clearly the site layout etc. it could be classed as a security breach and prosecuted under relevant anti-terrorism laws!!

May I recommend DroneScene, its run by Grey Arrows and has everything all the other apps offer and much more


Plod obviously hasn’t kept up to date with technology. Google Earth shows a fair bit of stuff we are advised not to overfly …

Years back I was in a Cessna out of Blackpool Airport and we were photographing properties in villages around the base of a large, barren hill. I vaguely noticed some railway lines running into the hill.

When we landed back at Blackpool a car followed us along the taxiway. Two gentlemen in trenchcoats got out and asked if we were aware that we had been flying around “a secret military installation”

My pilot replied “No.”

“But thanks for pointing it out, now we know!”


I requested a meeting with plod’s senior officer in the end - was in her office for nearly an hour discussing drone use. She confirmed that I was operating from a public area and when I asked exactly what laws were broken she couldn’t answer. Funnily enough though she did ask is I would mind helping them with some SAR work occasionally in case their helicopter wasn’t available - true story!!

Interesting question when you consider that many such sites (chemical sites/oil refineries) have a ban on the plant on anything that could cause a spark (for safety reasons)- often don’t even allow mobile phones to be carried on the plant. Might be worth bearing in mind.

In short- you might not be in breach of drone law but you might be breaking some other law, I will have to refresh my memory of H&S rules on chemical sites as I suspect in some cases you could end up inadvertently in breach of those if you get too close with a thing that is a source of ignition… I am thinking DSEAR, depending on how they define their Zones.



I know our oil terminals where the ships berth are covered under ship & port security regs. I certainly wouldn’t approve of anyone flying directly over the sites but if someone did I was wondering about a legal issues. The sites in question are all green on the Drone Assist app.

I’m sure Emirates and BA are not worried at the prospect ;o)

Personally, this one would boil down to Article 241 of the Air Navigation Order:

A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.

I’d be thinking to myself that if something goes wrong and the drone crashes the battery could be damaged and there’s a risk of explosion.

Unlikely, but possible.

Now, if I’m flying over some houses in town the chances are the drone bounces off a roof into a garden and scorches the grass. If it sticks in a gutter or on a flat roof it could start a house fire. That’s bad. But I’ve got VLOS so can call the fire brigade, alert residents, etc. Risk is minimised and I’m comfortable that I could say I was neither negligent nor reckless.

But flying a LIPO battery over a refinery (or, as it now is, a petroleum storage facility)… that’s a whole different level of risk. If you were coordinating with the facility you could mitigate it somewhat by knowing which tanks to avoid, having emergency services on standby, etc. But if you’re just taking off from a nearby road and flying over the fence then if your drone crashes and the battery explodes you’re going to wind up in court.

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Yeah this is basically what I was thinking. You’d think such areas would be indicated on the maps. Interestingly though there have been plenty of helicopter and light aircraft pleasure flights right over the sites with pictures taken.

I think I’m right in saying that with anything other than a sub 250g drone, you would have to be 150m away and as the max altitude is 120m there’s no way of overflying it without being in trouble.

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I believe this is correct. Unless of course you hold something like A2 CofC and flying a suitable aircraft.

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I know that our local power station - Hinkley Point has a restriction - which according to my maps is from ground to 2000 feet

So I assume that rules out drone activity in the area. And I guess DJI will just block flights here?



Understandable seeing as it’s a nuclear site (although hardly top secret). To be fair you’d probably be safer flying over that than say an oil refinery.

Looks a cool place to fly though, I can image FPV could be fun @notveryprettyboy

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