Drones And The Law

by coptrz on April 21, 2016

Drones And The Law

Drones are now allowed for commercial use – but do you know your legal rights and responsibilities? We take a look at the considerations you need to make before buying or using a drone for your business.

Hobby Versus Commercial Drone Operation

The first and most important thing to remember is your status in the eyes of the law when using a drone. If you fly your drone for fun, and adhere to the usual permissions and restrictions (such as no flying within certain distances of airports), you don’t have to have any of the below considerations – but we advise you think about putting them in place anyway!

However, if you’re using a drone for your business, it’s considered a commercial venture – that means you’re making money out of it in some way. This also includes ‘payment in kind’, so if you were filming an event in return for free tickets, that counts as payment and therefore a commercial venture.


Every country, and even local state, has individual laws on drone use. The world is currently in flux as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are no longer the reserve of government agencies: when does a hobbyist become a commercial venture? Who should be allowed to fly drones? What qualifications are needed? What are the height and distance restrictions? What are local landmark restrictions?

So many things to think about!

As someone owning a drone, or hiring a drone company for your business, it’s up to you to make sure you (or the third party drone pilot) have received the right permissions and will adhere to the law. Even if your pilot is hired, if he breaks the law it could be your business that comes under fire.

There are a few common themes in permissions and restrictions, which will give you a good idea of what needs to be checked out before you use a drone for your business:

– Height restrictions: usually around 400 feet, and drones must usually remain within eyeline of the pilot

– Air permits: the country air authority (such as the CAA in the UK, or FAA in the USA) requires you have a permit before using a drone for commercial ventures

– Pilot qualifications: you must use a trained and qualified commercial drone pilot for your business

– Landmarks such as airports, schools, and places of worship will often have restrictions in place – make sure to check the local restrictions before filming or photographing anything with your drone.



Ensure To Insure

Your company’s public liability insurance is unlikely to already include accidents caused by your drone. This is because they’re such a new tool in the world of business, other industries such as insurance are still catching up, leaving you with a grey area to navigate. Have a chat with your current liability insurance provider to determine whether drones are covered, and if not see if you can add to the policy. If not, you’ll need to take out a separate policy covering your drone use.

You’ll also need to consider property insurance for your drone, if you’ve decided to buy one rather than hire a third party company. This will cover you in case of accidental loss, and some policies will also provide your business with that all-essential public liability cover, too. Do your research and make sure you’re covered for any likely eventuality.

If you’re hiring a third party drone pilot, whether freelance or a business, you need to check their insurance status. We advise that, even if they have their own insurance, you still consider your own cover. Drone accidents can involve complex legal procedures and you wouldn’t want to get hit with a huge bill unnecessarily!

Don’t Be A Peeping Tom

Privacy rights are a difficult area to navigate, but essential to understand. The key thing to know is this:

If you are taking photos on public property, you are allowed to use those images without permission of any people in the footage.


Drones, being of an aerial nature, will often fly over private property. If you will be close to private property that will likely include identifiable detail in your photographs or film, it’s essential you obtain written permission from the property owner.

It’s also just good manners to ask your neighbours if you can film nearby!

Put It Into Action

Now you know what you need to do before buying your drone, it’s time to look at the drone packages available! If you’re thinking of just hiring a drone pilot, don’t worry – we’ve got bespoke packages for that, too. Get in touch with the COPTRZ team info@coptrz.com with any of your drone questions and we’ll help you get on the right track to using drone footage for your business!

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