Drones come in a huge and diverse range of forms. These vary from the small, hand-held radio controlled versions, which are for sale to young people as an alternative to model aircraft and are used in their gardens and open spaces, right through to the ones that are being used in industry and by an ever-widening range of businesses, as they are being proven to save manpower in many different areas.
It's important for riders to have some understanding of drones and the legal restrictions surrounding them, should they be encountered when out riding. This awareness should help you to reassure your horse, and reducing the risk of him becoming spooked by such random flying objects.
What to do if you and your horse experience an incident with a drone
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is very aware of the potential issues relating to horses and drones. However, there is very little they can do from a regulatory perspective. The jurisdiction for dealing with the dangerous operation of drones, particularly in congested areas and over public spaces, people and infrastructure lies with the police.
If you experience an incident with a drone, whilst riding, carriage driving, or even just when your horse is grazing in their field we would encourage you to report this to your local police.
Where possible, it might assist engagement with the police if video footage of the drone demonstrating the inappropriate/dangerous nature of their operation could be obtained.
If it is possible to obtain the name of the operators (commercial name) and/or the names of the individuals operating the drones (without putting anyone at risk), it might assist the CAA in gathering intelligence and potentially following up with oversight and audit activity.
Remember you can report any incident involving a drone to us too!
The operation of the aircraft must not endanger anyone or anything.
The regulations for recreational drone flights are contained within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which is the primary document for all aviation regulations within the UK. In order to keep the regulations at a proportionate level for these small drones, a set of specific, simpler, regulations apply to aircraft that have a mass of 20kg or less (which are termed ‘small unmanned aircraft’ within the ANO).
In simple terms, these regulations state that:
- You are responsible for flying your drone in a safe manner
- You must keep the drone in your direct sight at all times while it is flying, so that you can ensure that it does not collide with anything, especially other aircraft
- You must not endanger anyone, or any thing with your drone, including any articles that you drop from it
- You must not fly more than 400ft above the surface. If flying over hilly/undulating terrain or close to a cliff edge, this may be interpreted as being a requirement to remain within a distance of 400ft from the surface of the earth
- You must not fly within the Flight Restriction Zone of a protected aerodrome
- If your drone weighs more than 7kg, additional rules apply if you fly in certain types of airspace.
If your drone is fitted with a camera, there are also a number of additional limitations surrounding where you can fly it, and how close you can fly it to other uninvolved people or objects. In order to be able to fly within these areas, or closer than the minimum distances that are in the regulations, you must obtain prior Permission from the CAA to do so.
For further details please refer to the CAA's website.
Operators of drones or model aircraft above 20kg, or operators wanting to legally fly outside the rules of the Drone Code will need to get permission from the CAA or an organisation acting on its behalf.
The type of permission you need depends on:
- the size and type of drone or model aircraft you want to fly
- where you want to fly
- how high you want to fly
- whether you want to fly for a hobby or for commercial reasons
You can find out more about permissions and exemptions at the Civil Aviation Authority website
Anyone flying a drone in the UK has a responsibility to be aware of the rules that are in place to keep everyone safe. More information can be found on the Drone Safe website.
The RAF Safety Centre has produced a video titled, 'Ask, Look, Listen' regarding the safe use of drones.