25 February 2019

UAV rules to change in March
Secrets in definitions

CAP1763 Air Navigation Order 2018 and 2019 Amendments: The United Kingdom Government published an amendment to the Air Navigation Order earlier this month, which is entering into force on 13 March 2019. Many platforms reported these changes, and the document of CAA is available below as PDF document. Then there are the definitions to be questioned.

UAV rules to change in March

Our understanding

We don't argue, agree or disagree to some changes - BMFA does the job -  however we want to reflect some really weird effects caused by these changes.

One change is deleting mass differentiation, and removing the 7kg limit, which orders everything under 20kg in one category. And this definition is really important. We - as rchelicopter.hu website - don't face the problem first time, we have done it before in case of Hungarian regulations, where this problem occured as it is in the UK now. And we went through all understanding with aviation experts, lawyers and air traffic officers to interpret everything well. This case is not different, key points are in definitions:

“Small unmanned aircraft” means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight.

This is the definition of SUA or UAV, UA (Same thing different names, matter is U alias Unmanned). First try to understand what the aircraft stands for. We tried to find an exact legal definition, but the most adequate definition of aircraft is published by EASA:

‘Aircraft’ means a machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air other than the reactions of the air against the earth’s surface

To be honest, this definition is so complicated, it is really hard to understand, but the simplified meaning: everything which flyes by air. Fortunately "machine" excludes living creatures, like birds, insects, dragons, vampires, so they don't count anymore. As this definition stands, tiny toys, coaxial helicopters, frisbee, boomerang, helium fitted balloon, kites are all included, however the last two excluded by the UK definition. Paper aeroplane still included. We had a really long dispute about balls in Hungary but it is still not clear, whether balls can be included. Badminton by its nature flies by air, so it is included.

Unmanned aircraft is any aircraft without pilot on the board. Which means: the only criteria is not having a pilot on board. Having a pilot at all is not a requirement, therefore free flyers, autonomous drones and paper aeroplanes are all included - and boomerang, frisbee, and might be balls as well. Everything, except balloons and kites.

And we arrived to our questions:

  • Is it a crime, when we are playing football within no-fly zones to an aerodrome?
  • Is it a crime, when a frisbee or a boomerang is thrown to a dog in 5km to an airport?
  • Is it a crime, when someone throws a paper aeroplane in a garden next to an airfield?

Because when we take the amendments serious, they all above will be crimes ending up in court, in fines and possible sentences behind the bars.

CAP1763 guidance document published by CAA


Originally we wanted to publish this map containing all affected areas. This map is really accurate, and shows all protection zones as they are.