Understanding Flight Zones in London

Hi, I’m a new Mini 2 owner and looking forward to the greater freedom we’ll hopefully have come Jan 1st.
But I want to stay legal and I know that restricted zones will still apply - so I’m trying to understand them.

The dronescene map is great (and I’ve already flow the 2 west London sites listed) but I’m confused about the zones on the map.

There’s a central london zone (labelled HYDE PARK) which is very clear - Drone No Fly Zone - fair enough.

But there’s a larger zone which includes where I live (NW6) which is the one I’m confused about.
It’s just labelled “THE SPECIFIED AREA” and the info box says:
"
Summary
Red zones are regulated high-risk areas and operation of your drone may be hazardous or prohibited.

Restricted Area
The flight of aircraft within this area is restricted in accordance with certain specified conditions. Notes attached to this area provide additional information
"
What are these notes and restrictions? I can’t find them anywhere. The NATS website has the same zone but is similarly unclear. I believe this zone is called R160 - but I can’t find the actual rules for it.

Can anyone shed any light?

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Can we just clarify the location @nathankw?

Is this the area you mean?

I mean the area labelled here:

It looks like it roughly corresponds to London Zone 2.

If you really want to know where you can fly in London…

The new CAP722 Edition 8 explains how the London restricted areas work (with the new rules). You can download it here: CAP 722: Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace - Guidance
Bottom of page 57 onwards “2.4.5.1 London Restricted Areas EG R157, R158 and R159”

It’s a big document but not toooooo unfriendly (although note that my day-job requires me to digest long technical documents so maybe I’m not one to judge that).

GC

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Thanks for that. I took a look at the document and as expected - R157,158 and 159 are no fly zones (unless you get special clearance). So no flying over Big Ben - fair enough!

Fortunately I’m outside those zones. The zone I’m in is the larger one covering London out to Zone 2 which is R160 (as per the picture R0CKEYES posted).

I can’t find any mention of R160 in that document. Do I take it that there are drones can fly in that area (subject to the usual safety rules)?

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nathankw
The question you posted is indeed a very good one and one that needs a definitive answer. My understanding of ‘special use airspace’ is one that allocated for just that ‘special use’ Military UAV, military etc. Therefore a NOTAM would apply.

However I could be wrong. Will look into this further if I get time tonight. In the mean time I hope one of the experts in this chimes in. Hopefully ‘Ian in London’ is around to help out.

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I’ve done some more hunting and the only document I can find that specifies R160 is this NATS map:

At the bottom it says:
R160 The Specified Area - Except with written permission of the CAA (01293 567171) a helicopter shall not fly over this area below such a height as would enable it, inevent of an engine failure, to land clear of the area. See also ENR 1.1, subsection 4.

So hopefully that means the restriction in R160 only applies to helicopters (and I presume a small drone is not a helicopter).

The NATS Drone Assist app is also not particularly clear.
It says of this zone:
The flight of aircraft within this area is restricted. We recommend you do not operate your drone here. If you do, please exercise extreme caution and abide by the CAA Dronecode…

So, annoyingly, it says there are resrictions but not what the restrictions are.
But the good news is that unlike R159 HYDE PARK (which is clearly labelled DRONE NO FLY ZONE) this zone implies you can fly albeit with caution.

You can’t fly there without express written permission from the CAA… The application is straightforward but look at the area your going to specifically fly, without a commercial reason for the flight it’s unlikely you will get permission…

Thanks and makes sense. It would be very helpful if you can you point us in the right direction where we can find that specific information? It will help out for the future.

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It’s deemed an NSF…

You’ll need to log onto NATS and apply for a ENSF for central London… but if you don’t hold a PfCO (preferably with OSC in place) it’s highly unlikely you’ll get approval, you would still need to follow the drone code etc… nsf.nats.aero

It can take a few weeks to get your approval through so it’s not a spur of the moment decision…

Thanks again for your help and patience. Personally agree its a no fly zone. However I can find information such as:

3.4 Flights by Small Unmanned Aircraft of any mass into Restricted Areas EG R157, R158 and R159 within the London and London City Control Zones require specific approval via the ENSF process.

Nothing specific regarding R160 other than helicopter flights.

Thanks for the input but as Rockeyes says it would be great to see a source that backs this up. Not to question your expertise but there are so many claims and counterclaims that what we really need is an official document or source that clearly states the rules for this R160 area.

157, 158 and 159 are all clearly marked on the NATS app as “DRONE NO FLY ZONE” (with the notes adding “unless prior approval”

Since they’re contained within R160, it would seem far important that R160 is labelled as a NO FLY ZONE if that’s the case.

Of course, currently you aren’t able to fly anywhere in R160 without violating the drone code since you’ll always be <150m from a built-up-area. So maybe they’ll clarify come Jan 1st?

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It doesn’t seem to have any status different to the nearby London CTR, which you are perfectly entitled to fly in so long as you stay under 400ft. This site only refers to needing an ENSF for flights in the 3 specified London areas (Hyde Park, City of London, Isle of Dogs), not the wider area:

I suggest contact the CAA for advice if still concerned.

Thanks kvetner. That’s what I think as well though interesting that AHCL disagrees.

I dropped the CAA a line. They not very helpfully told me to ask NATS.
So now I’ve sent a query to NATS. Will let you know if I get a reply.

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nathankw
I did likewise this morning. Will also keep you posted.

So the CAA are still passing the buck to NATS and NATS haven’t replied.

I have, however, found something interesting: there’s an official model aircraft flying area within that zone.

It’s in Wormwood Scrubs, west london, and outlined in the council byelaws:
http://democracy.lbhf.gov.uk/documents/s7876/Appendix%201.pdf
(See the penultimate page)
And mentioned here:
“Leisure facilities include play areas, … model aircraft runway

There’s even a group that flies there:

The park is entirely within the R160 area which makes it hard to believe that it’s really a no-fly zone.

Lets hope NATS confirms.

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Still not reply from NATS.
But I have just installed a free trial of SkyDemon and that has a little more information.

When you hover over the zone in question is says:
Restricted Area EGR160
Location: The Specified Area
Vertical SFC+
Notes: Applies to helicopters only

Which looks like it doesn’t apply to UAVs / Drones - so I think we’re ok.

AHCL - would be great to understand where you got the information that this is a no fly zone. Thx.

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So I’ve finally got some more info on this. I sent a message to Altitude Angel (who make the official NATS Drone Assist App) asking about the London area

This is their reply:

Hi Nathan. In most cases, drones are able to operate within “The Specified Area” around London, provided they obey the drone code and no other flight restrictions are in effect. Where applicable, you may also need to seek permission from landowners. Hope this helps.

So post Dec 31st looks like much of London is OK to fly <250g.

There are still the 3 No Fly Zones (Hyde Park, The City and Docklands).

But there are some exciting areas not within those areas, including the South Bank near the National Theatre, The Shard, Maritime Greenwich, Bloomsbury.
Obviously you’d need to obey the other rules (like avoiding crowds) but can anyone see any reason why flying these areas with a mini isn’t legal?

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Hi all,

Will try to keep this short, but I’m confused!

We’ve been asked (by Partner’s Sister) to shoot a video of their property, which is for sale.

  • It’s in Central London, pretty much opposite the Imperial War Museum.
  • Estate Agent wants a drone shot “coming over the Museum, down to the door”.

I am at the early stage of working through the A2CofC, and have a Mini 2, and Mavic Air 2.

It’s a freebie, but we’d have insurance, and would use the Mini 2.

I’m very confused about whether it’s even possible for us to do (assuming I’ve got the A2CofC by then), given the FRZ, which seems to be from ground level up to 99,900ft!

Is it possible? I assume the GeoLock will prevent me even taking off? What’s the process for temporarily removing the GeoLock? If I need 3rd-party permissions, would they even entertain it with the A2CofC?

Good to Fly says I’m OK, but I assume the FRZ trumps that?

Appreciate any input, even if it’s just “Don’t even bother”! We’re not prepared to do anything illegal, or that brings the scene into disrepute.

Thanks,

Adam.