University campus "Health and Safety" Encounter

Drone - Mavic Air 2

I had an interesting encounter yesterday while doing some filming for a university project on campus. I already had the drone in the air, and I was hovering fairly low - properly about 10-15 feet - over a river. After about four minutes I hear someone say “excuse me? Drones aren’t allowed on campus.” Obviously, I followed the standard “random person interrupting” protocol and asked them to wait until I had landed the drone. After this, two people presented themselves to me as “University Health and Safety Officers” and informed me that I wasn’t allowed to fly over campus (unless it was at the sports field).

It’s worth mentioning that I’d done a DJI Flysafe application as my university is pretty close to RAF Northolt - not quite inside the authorisation zone, but DJI wanted an application done. I didn’t argue with them - I showed them my CAA license and Operational Authorisation through the BMFA, but the guy clearly had no idea what he was looking at.

My university campus is a public place - the entire outside space is open to public access. My understanding is that I can fly over public spaces as long as I don’t film anyone without their permission.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this? How should I deal with it if this happens again?



Being open to public access doesn’t make it a public place.

The land will be privately owned, and the landowner will have a general right to eject anyone from it (by declaring them a trespasser) who isn’t following their policy. There are exceptions to that if the “trespasser” is using a public highway or right of way that crosses the land; or for some public parks, where the public may have access by right. Those wouldn’t apply to a university campus.

What I would do: given that they give the public free access, I’d ask for a copy of their drone policy or rules that they mentioned. Those will set the boundaries of what the private landowner allows on their land.


If it is truly public (whatever that means) then you can photograph anyone with any type of device capable of recording images in public without their permission. If the area is actually owned by the uni then they can ask you to leave their land (expel a student - or professor - from their uni?!), but they can’t ask you to remove your drone from the airspace above their land - and you can continue to photograph people (though it’s probably inadvisable to attempt a portrait without a telephoto lens!).

I would deal with these people by telling them to mind their own business :joy:

As you were on University land, they can tell you to stop.

They can’t stop you overflying if you take off from outside their land, you just need to fly at a reasonable height, so as not to make a nuisance of yourself.

My concern would be them calling the Police next time, as they have more powers to deal with you if they think you aren’t flying in accordance with your Article 16 Operational Authorisation.

That said, as this was for a University project, I would of thought they’d have a process to get official permission … have you looked into that for when you next need to do some flying for the project?


This is sort of my domain, I work in H&S at a University, we have a drone policy for students and staff activities, I would have thought your institution does too, and if not they should have.


We are looking into getting permission for any future filming we need to do. So far though, all they seem to be doing is complaining about us, without offering any constructive information on how we should go about ‘getting permission’.

I did look on the university’s website for a ‘drone policy’ before we did anything, but couldn’t find one - or any mention of drones, for that matter. It would seem that the H&S staff on our campus seem more interested in complaining about us to our course leader than offering any constructive feedback on how we should go about getting permission for future flights.

Thanks for this. Can you tell me whereabouts in the CAA drone code it mentions the airspace being out of the control of the landowner?

Which Uni ?

Brunel University, in Uxbridge, West London. A quick google search reveals nothing - except a three-line paragraph in the 'Residences Rules and Regulations". A section of this reads: “Drone users on campus are directed to recreational open spaces.” The area where we were filming was a recreational, open space on campus. There is no detailed drone policy - not one I can find anyway.

I’ll take a look

Thank you. Do let me know if you find any new information. I suspect I will be summoned to a meeting at some point to discuss the “incident” as it is being labelled in email subject lines. I’d like to go armed with some information and sections taken from the CAA guidelines.

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I work at a uni and if anything like ours you need to get permission to Take off and land on site or security will come and send you packing.

I suspect by recreational open spaces. They mean off campus. Not on it.

You can take off and land from outside their land and fly over. Assuming you can keep visual line of sight if you’re going to quote CAA rules at them.

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Indeed, they probably do mean off-campus - but this isn’t made clear in the information.

Security patrolled past us while we were sitting up and weren’t the slightest bit interested. The H&S people, however, acted like we’d committed a war crime…

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I think the best thing to do, will be to get your department involved, and push that this is an educational project, and that it can be managed safely, i.e. do your risk assessments etc …

Not all Unis have a UAV group or safety system for unmanned aircraft flights

And if they drag you in, a rep.

I’ve already half-completed a risk assessment for future drone activities. We made it pretty clear at the time that the flight was for educational purposes, but that seemed to go in one ear and out the other.
Thanks for all your help.