VLOS and navigating via drone cam's display on smartphone or suitable controller - UK specific question

Using a DJI Mini 2 as an example, looking at the CAA regulations as follows:

“You must be able to see your drone or model aircraft without using:”

“electronic viewing equipment, such as a smart phone, tablet or video goggles”

and the max VLOS seems to be about 500 metres.

Therefore a drone operator cannot fly more than 500m HORIZONTALLY from his/her location even if using the drone’s cam and the video that is fed back to the smartphone (or controller with a display).

I’m looking to verify this because I often see videos of drone range tests on YouTube where the operator is flying the drone some miles away. Admittedly a lot of these are in the US and elsewhere where the rules are presumably different but some are in the UK. So I guess the latter operators are breaking the law and advertising the fact? (no, not looking to name and shame, just want to verify my understanding).

All depends on the drone and conditions.

Indeed the rules are quite clear VLOS must be maintained at all times.

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Thanks, just wanted to be sure.

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Unless you have spotters along the route so at least one of them can see it at all times, and in direct contact with the pilot. That won’t be the case with nearly all the videos you’ve seen.

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And even that is not permitted under the standard regulations: EVLOS requires an additional Operational Authorisation.

Short answer is yes, all the range tests seen on YouTube are likely be illegal under current UK drone regulations.

Longer answer is that the actual legal definition of VLOS under the regulations is a bit worider than what you find on the CAA website (google CAP1789A if you want to check it):

‘visual line of sight operation’ (VLOS) means a type of UAS operation in which, the remote pilot is able to maintain continuous unaided visual contact with the unmanned aircraft, allowing the remote pilot to control the flight path of the unmanned aircraft in relation to other aircraft, people and obstacles for the purpose of avoiding collisions

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Unless you have spotters along the route so at least one of them can see it at all times, and in direct contact with the pilot

I think this negates that possibility unless you are licensed for Specific or Certified category:

They must stand next to you and you must be able to talk to each other at all times.

From Flying drones safely and responsibly | UK Civil Aviation Authority

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I stand corrected, thought it was possible to have a series of spotters without additional approval.

Have a look at this thread …

The CAA interpretation of VLOS is quite interesting and would suggest for your Mini 2 it would be significantly less than 500 metres :+1:

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From my interpretation of what CAA have said about range of VLOS, 500m is a guideline they generally look at but isn’t a hard and fast rule. It comes more down to questions like the size of the drone (a larger drone will have a farther VLOS distance). And simply seeing a dot in a the distance isn’t technically VLOS - you need to be able to determine the orientation of the drone and its approximate position relative to obstacles/hazards without reference to the camera feed.

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Realistically with a Mini 2 you are probably looking at 300m max, nd only then if you have eyes like a s**thouse rat.

That makes perfect sense and is something that I was also thinking about - not that I plan on letting it become a dot in the sky.

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I definitely cannot see my mini 2 at 500 metres.

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Flying at night using a Drone Strobe Lights can increases your VLOS over 500m and using them during the day can too as long as you can see the lights

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Beat me to it by a minute, heh.

Without some strong lights it’s so easy to lose the Mini 2 once you look down at your screen.

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By using the correct lights at night, they must be visible for three statute miles or more at night

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A suggestion I’d make for extending the effective VLOS of a drone like the Mini 2 is to put fluorescent decals on the arms of the aircraft, of different colours on each arm. That way you can determine the orientation at range a lot more effectively, and it also helps to highlight it against the sky.

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Good tip, I’ll see if I can find some. Thanks.

General rule for aircraft is red for right and green for left, is that right?

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A suggestion I got from another thread is reflective tape. I bought silver, put on the body sides and arms. Fairly easy to see in sunlight by rotating the drone, one of the strips usually catches the light.

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With the new Tango wrap and 3 crees, I can easily see my new Mini 2 500m away in the day, and way futher at night.

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Red is left(Port) and Green is Right (Starboard).

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