Very Low Military flyover

Just witnessed another extremely low flypast of a military aircraft where I live (East Devon Coastal). This time a Sea King helicopter. I know its difficult to be too accurate with height but i would say 200ft. Zero warning as it came from inland heading out to sea. I have also seen a Hercules and a pair of American F15’s in the past operating extremely low. All very impressive and great to see but as a drone owner and flyer rather alarming that they appeared to be within our 120m height limit. Should I be checking Notams every time I fly? I have phoned up on the past with a number I got from another thread to query if low flying was expected in the area but was told there was no record of such an operation on that day. Anyone else experienced this?




You could sign up to the NOTAM notification service and read each entry in the daily email and try to work out which areas are affected and where the boundaries are:

3) H7643/22: Aerial survey will take place NEW
Q) EGXX/QWYLW/IV/M/W/000/065/5504N00500W999


Look at Drone Scene before you go - or look at it on site!

Drone Scene is automatically updated with current and planned activities - NOTAMS - and has a switchable layer to show jusat that - along with many other features. And it is accessible from any page of this forum - just click on the hamburger icon next to your avatar and then click Drone Scene.

Best of all the information is displayed in map form so you can easily see where the temporary restriction (the blue area) is. When you click on it you get the details of when it is in force and why!

This, for instance is showing forthcoming Met Office balloon activity in the Ashbourne area - so you can make your plans accordingly:

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Definitely, yes. Well worth getting in the habit of checking Drone Scene before every flight. Just because you’ve flown somewhere before, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a new/temporary restriction in place now.

Having said that, keep in mind that you could see low flying military aircraft anywhere in the UK, and they don’t always raise NOTAMs for the flights. One of the reasons why VLOS and situational awareness are important. :+1:

Thanks very much for the feedback both. I looked at Drone Scene and nothing was listed for military low flying where I was today. I seem to have heard that the military can fly as low as they like and where they like without notification. I do believe that the suddenness of the appearance of the helicopter today would have made for a dangerous situation had anyone been flying at the upper end of the range in the area even with VLOS.
Still no harm done. I don’t fly often any more but am inclined to keep as low as practical in the future.

Thanks again.

The livery wasn’t grey and orange by any chance? If so that’s owned by Heliops who are a private company in the business of SAR training.

No, it was all grey.

Not sure who’s flying that then as the RN, RAF & FAA retired the Sea King.

If you go to

you’ll find a timetable of all low flying exercises.

The military have a pre.determind flight path they use Monday to Friday which we should be aware of. Forget what its called now but was in the a2.c of c.

Just found it.

The Mach Loop is one of the UK’s three Tactical Training Areas (TTA), mapped out for routine operational low flying training by fast jets and Hercules transport aircraft of the Royal Air Force and other allied nations.

What u said

Like this!


All useful stuff, but not relevant to the SW Uk.
The Sea King was grey. No idea who was driving it. It was right over my head. No mistaking the type.
The copter followed the coastline really low until out of site.

I still think it was something to do with Heliops… They are the only ones flying a Sea King out of Portland and down that neck of the coastline.

I don’t know for sure, but it may have been taking part in the biannual NATO exercise Joint Warrior (1-13Oct). They usually stick to the NW of Scotland, but this year they also used the Channel during the later phase, which is why it was coordinated from RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall. Other NATO countries still use Sea Kings I believe.
EG_Circ_2022_Y_098_en.pdf (
Exercise Joint Warrior: The largest military exercise in Europe explained (

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Thanks cdm21, That sounds like a plausible explanation for the sighting.
Should I have expected to have warning of its route through the area on Dronescene??

If a NOTAM had been issued it would have appeared.

Although fixed wing tend to not stray below 500 feet helicopters seem to have more freedom - as well as military popping up well away from recognised low flying areas there are also Air Ambulance, search and rescue and Coastguard.

I have been in a Coastie Sea King on my way to the decompression chamber at Haslar, having made an emergency ascent from depth. That flight never went above 100 feet.

So, as well as military pilotsbeing allowed anywhere, there are legitimate flights which are made in an emergency for which no prior notice is possible

I’m not sure the RAF issue Notams. In the Lake District I’ve rung their low flying number and been told if any sorties are due but they can’t say exactly where. You can post a Notam for your own flight the day before and they’ll take it into account in their flight planning, so I understand.

Certainly when I was in the RAF I was aware that military helicopters can fly at any height pretty much anywhere. They call this nap of the earth flying. Army helicopters are known to practice low level flying where they would need to climb to avoid power lines so well below the max drone height of 400ft. Drone rules are set in place instructing drone pilots to descend if they hear a helicopter approaching and this is also why VLOS should always be maintained with your drone. As for aircraft normal minimum height for military aircraft is 250ft again pretty much anywhere outside of airport or other MATZ. Military aircraft are also allowed to fly to fly down to 100ft when conducting Operational Low Flying (OLF) Training. This is usually notified and is within specific designated low flying areas.


Ideally, low flying activities are only carried out in NOTAM’ed areas. However, this is probably only the case for extended exercises/flights that are planned well in advance.

To quote from a brochure on the government website: “Most low flying is planned on the day of the flight to account for weather, training requirements and airspace restrictions. A forecast of daily activity is available for most areas from 0800 515 544. When pre-planned exercises and other events are scheduled, they are notified on our website and in local media.” I have never called this number, so I don’t know how useful it is.

As said above, if you are able to post a NOTAM for your flight, they will at least be aware of the potential risk. I imagine this may not be very practicable for many drone users though…

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I had a coastguard helicopter fly well within 50m height above the headland where I was taking photos.

I heard loud rotors and grounded my drone. Thank goodness I did or there was a high probability of a crash.

Helicopters can come so quick and when you’re on the coast it can be very difficult to pinpoint where they are coming from with all the sound bouncing around.

I’m super vigilant about listening out for them now when I’m on the coast.