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?
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!!
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”
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.
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.
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.