Where to legally fly in East Devon

I am a relatively newcomer to drones.
I have gained my operator and flyer IDs (drone is above 250g), but am finding it increasingly confusing to understand where I can legally fly in East Devon (or Devon in general).
I know that I can’t fly on Dartmour. Ditto for National Trust land. But I have just seen a policy from East Devon District Council saying that they won’t allow flight from or over their land.
That doesn’t seem to leave very much. Am I missing something?

They (national trust, british rail, et al) can’t prevent you flying over their land. That’s not their call thankfully.

Check this out @Pengedog

You’ll find a whole bunch of places to fly, recommended by other members here.

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Many thanks

As has been written about on numerous posts on here the council cannot put an edict out simply banning all drone flights from or over all their land. That’s not how the law works. They have to apply for and enact a bylaw for that particular area of land, park, waterway, foreshore or whatever. Some areas or sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) have covenants and bylaws in place preventing UAV flights at certain times of year so these would have to be checked out too. All bylaws currently in force should be freely available on request from your borough, district, county or parish council. A simple email request should get you started. They should by law also be posted at entrances, gates and/or other places they pertain too. A simple ‘No Drones’ sign means diddly squat.

Some major landowners such as the NT have their own bylaws in place but that too is 56 years old and not worth the paper it was written on, but that’s a whole other subject :smiley:

Unfortunately it’s down to us to do our due diligence and find out as best we can where we can fly and part of that is understanding the laws that protect us and our recreational hobby. Far too many councils and companies rely on the unintentional ignorance of the hobby drone pilot to enforce their rules and policies rather than go the proper and legal route but I have been encouraged of late by the likes of Bristol City Council who legally allow UAV flights from and over their land.

First stop make an email request to your council (use a Gmail account without your name in it) and request information about their drone policy and any bylaws that are in place and where.


Many thanks for the detailed reply. Much appreciated. Will get the ball rolling.

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CAP 722C Chapter 4 section 4.1/4.2/4.3 read it …landowners can refuse permission to takeoff and land on their land BUT airspace is “state asset”
Also, if you google your local/district council and find out where to send a freedom of information, normally you can do it on line and you’ll get a reply within 20 days. I ask the following and my local/district council/ have no restrictions but am awaiting county council

  1. What is the legal basis for the Council’s published policy of not allowing UAS/UAV/drones to fly “above council land" without permission from the Council? Are any UAS Geographical Zones or other types of restricted airspace in force, in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority regulations as set out in CAP 722C UAS Airspace Restrictions Guidance and Policy?
  2. Is the Council reviewing its policy to bring it into line with currentUK legislation, especially with regard to drones that have a mass of less than 250g?
  3. Can you finally advise if these have been reviewed in relation to CAP722C (https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalapplic…) published by the Civil Aviation Authority in December 2020.

Don’t forget, though your council may not have any restrictions you must still follow all regulations in connection to flying a UAV.
Hope you find some place to fly

It’s almost a game of call my bluff I’m finding.

I read on this forum somewhere that it’s easier to say sorry later than to seek permission upfront.

With that in mind, do you homework before flying and if your research reveals no geo-zone or other flight restrictions, the bylaws don’t prevent it and you aren’t a nuisance to others at the time then I say go fly!!!
Chances are you will hear no more about it but should somebody challenge you, you’ll have plenty of evidence and likely more than they will have. But should they throw something into the mix that is contrary to your research apologise and leave. Then go check it out.

I’m seeing a lot written quite cleverly to make you think they have it covered legally but if you unpick it all, it’s usually not the case.
The other thing about challenging whats written is they are more likely to try to get it enforced via the proper route. Of course whether they would be successful or not is a whole new matter.


Off on a bit of a tangent here but the hoops Councils have to jump through and data they have to collect to get a bylaw agreed, passed in chambers, and enacted means the vast majority of the time they have far more serious things to worry about that UAV pilots and their drones which is why they rely on words, signs and enforcement officers that just repeat verbatim what they’ve seen on a memo/email or what they believe to be the law.

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Hello Bielzibubz,

Please can I clarify one issue when you say “the council cannot put an edict out simply banning all drone flights from or over all their land. That’s not how the law works”

Specifically as regards take off and landing:

  • Do land owners not have the full / unfettered right to prohibit (i.e. declare they do not give consent) for any TOAL from thier land?

  • Is that just private land?

  • How does this apply to public land / council owned land? (Parks, commons, greens, forests)


Hi Justin,

The way I understand it is that although the land is owned by the council the laws regarding restricting access to and what happens on it are somewhat different to those of private individuals and entities. Private landowners such as you and I or corporations/companies have explicit rights under ownership to dictate what happens on and who has access to their land. Public land is exactly that, there for the use by the public and as such Government bodies are quite restricted in what and how they can prohibit activities on that land.

If the council want to restrict any public recreational activity on any of their land (parks, commons, greens and forest areas etc) there has to be a bylaw or PSPO (Public Space Preservation Order) in place or if the land is bequeathed to them by a private individual a covenant to the effect written into the documentation of transfer. They can also declare an area to be an one of ‘Special Scientific Interest’ or a special ‘Wildlife Habitat’. These have specific public restrictions placed upon them without the need for a bylaw but usually these are passed up the chain of command to Government level for passing and enactment. These can sometimes have specific restrictions on overflight but my understanding again is that these and by the CAA are the only times the airspace can be restricted.

My best advise is check to see if there are any District, County and Parish byaws in place where you plan on flying. Chances are there isn’t any and if your that way inclined make a FOI request to the Borough Council asking what if any bylaws they have in place regarding the flight of UAV’s on or over their land.

All this is just my understanding of the regulations based on the research I have done these past few months but I’m always up for being educated by someone with more knowledge than.


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HI PHil,

Thanks for your in-depth insights - that does help me as regards council land.


  1. I did actually go to my local council’s records office to view all current bylaws on parks & open spaces.There is nothing specifically anti-drone. However, that is not suprising as they date from 1800s to 1980 (most recent).

  2. The existing byelaws do have broader themes like:

  • no vehicles or machines unless to areas where their use is specifally permitted
  • do not disturb or annoy other users enjoyment
  • do not obstruct
  • don’t erect structures
  1. I took photographs of the most relevant extracts (as above) from byelaws.
    I could share them here for peoples amusement / education. :grin:

How can you know that unless you have read all the various legislation covering British Rail et al? Legislation which the EU rules (in substance retained by the UK post Brexit) specifically state takes precedence over the UAS legislation? It’s a whole lot more complicated than simply relying on the mantra that the CAA controls the airspace.

Network Rail themselves state on their website that it ‘can’ be illegal to fly on or near a railway and then later on the very same page contradict that by saying “Only authorised Network Rail pilots and specialist approved contractors are permitted to fly drones near the railway”

So where it isn’t illegal they don’t permit it anyway? Very strange. And the one case study they reference was a prosecution because the pilot was within 50m of the railway (old Drone Code regs) It’s out of date and they acknowledge as much here in a response to a FOI request asking network rail to site the legislation that backs up their claim that it’s illegal…

I have processed your request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
I have consulted with the relevant colleagues and I can confirm that the information you
have referenced from our website is out of date and should have been removed. New
regulations in relation to drones have come into place as of 1 January 2021 and we have
*now updated our webpage to reflect these changes. *
Network Rail Infrastructure Limited Registered Office: Network Rail, 2nd Floor, One Eversholt Street, London, NW1 2DN Registered in England and Wales No. 2904587 www.networkrail.co.uk
We have conducted searches but unfortunately it is not known whether the previous two
statements (that were published on our website) were codified into law but I can confirm
that there are no legal condiitons that back these statements at this time.
There are no specific regulations that have specifically been written for railways. However,
we are part of the National Critical Infrastructure and so any information published by
Network Rail are guidelines and reminders about the Nationwide drone rules when flying
near people/and/or built up areas.
You can referrer to the Air Navigation Order (issued by the CAA – Civil Aviation Authority)
which has just been amended with the lasted updates for UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)
operations in the UK. Below are a few websites which you may find helpful.
UK regulations | Civil Aviation Authority (caa.co.uk)
Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance (caa.co.uk)
The revised Air Navigation Order | UK Civil Aviation Authority (caa.co.uk)
I hope this response is helpful. If you have any enquiries about this response, please
contact me in the first instance at FOI@networkrail.co.uk. Details of your appeal rights
are below.
Please remember to quote the reference number at the top of this letter in all future

Basically what they now acknowledge is that as long as you adhere to the CAA Drone Code regulations you can fly over railway lines and their associated buildings.

Full document here
FOI202100001 Response.pdf (119.6 KB)

But they do


Why would I need to read anything by British Rail? :thinking:

British Rail have no more control over UK airspace than my local McDonald’s has.


The Pebblebed heath commons are off limits for TOAL - but you have the Exe Estuary (Crown Estate at Low Tide) and I’ve done a bit of flying around the Otter Estuary too. Generally people are interested and like trying to follow the drone :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Many thanks

I just got a drone, flyer ID and operator id and find it just as confusing but the comments on this post do give me some clarity. I am based in Essex and was wondering if there are any specific training or practicing areas?