The Port of London Authority (PLA) has a statutory responsibility to the safety of all of those using the River Thames and therefore, needs to be notified about any intended UAV flight over the river.
Those wishing to fly a UAV over the Thames should notify us at least 3 working days in advance, to enable us to assess the potential impact it might have on the safety of river users. Please notify us at your earliest opportunity, completing as much detail as possible through our Drone Online Notification Portal.
The first paragraph says they need to be notified. The “needs” sound like they are stating a (legal?) requirement, on the other hand it’s only for a notification, not permission.
From the rest of the page they don’t seem to be claiming a right to deny the flight. Has anyone had any experience with the PLA? What was it like?
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but do they have any jurisdiction over who can and cant fly over the river? If you’re flying low then it could interfere with shipping, but the CAA own the airspace, not them, and The Crown Estate own most, if not all, of the shoreline. I believe this is more to do with their radar than anything else.
Going on, if they need to know who’s flying over the river, are they notified of every flight to and from every airport nearby and does every airline notify them 3 days prior to every flight?
And what about other rivers and canals? Will we need to notify whoever of an intended flight over a canal to limit the impact and ensure the safety of flying over a countryside picturesque canal? The PLA, much as they are trying to do the right thing for everyone, need to consider the implications of this and the lack of consistency throughout the United Kingdom.
I looked into this recently. This article is from a couple of years ago but I couldn’t find anything that contradicts what the CAA said back then.
Obviously you still need to adhere to the usual airspace stuff as London is peppered with flight restriction areas (Battersea Heliport, London City Airport, Hyde Park, The City of London, etc.), some of which cover or overlap areas of the Thames.
When looking on Altitude Angel app or Dronescene.co.uk website, you don’t need to worry about “The Specified Area” though, which covers a large part of central London as this is not applicable to UAS (drone) operations (see What is the Specified Area within London?). Somewhat annoyingly, this area can’t be turned off by itself in the layers panels and it overlaps with some other red restriction zones that ARE applicable.
In addition to all the above, technically you also need to check any local council borough bye-laws for the area you want to fly from in terms of take-off and landing from the ground. Bye-laws are a subject too big to cover in this thread but one tool that can help you identify which areas fall under which council is https://app.droneprep.uk/. It’s free to create a basic account which will give you all that info.
As a result of looking into all this I’ve found quite a few good spots in London, including some that can get you over some really picturesque areas of the Thames depending on what drone you’re flying (e.g. sub 250g, or over) and what certification you have (e.g. A2CofC). Feel free to message me with any more questions
DronePrep’s also been covered on a number of threads and not exactly considered reputable by consensus. In this case their inclusion of listing outdated or otherwise unenforceable policies without byelaws is dubious.
Bit of a sweeping statement. They were one of the first drone map services to add land ownership/local authority information and I still think it’s a good starting point for identifying this stuff compared to manual research which is really cumbersome. As to the enforceability of local bye-laws, that’s a completely different subject and not of Droneprep’s making. It’s an interesting topic area but hasn’t been tested in UK courts yet and personally I don’t intend on being the first case.
Whichever way you look at it, drone flying (both hobby and commercial) is already fundamentally underpinned and enabled by various businesses and organisations - drone manufacturers, regulators etc.
DP weren’t the first-to-market drone maps solution so I don’t see their model as predatory or exploitative. I’m not convinced they do have a compelling paid-for proposition, but that’s for individuals consumers to decide in the same way as paying for additional things like Flight Reader, Litchi, third-party drone accessories etc.
Anyway, think we are on the same page when it comes to hobby flying
Wasn’t aware of them trying to jack free users to paid-for tiers, though it’s a fairly common start-up approach (build produc/value, consumer base, then charge or stop heavily discounting). Anyway, each to their own, I guess. I still find their free account useful, though the recent “Local authority” tool for Dronescene looks brilliant and I will likely use that now in future instead. Cheers.