At a court case in January 2023, an amateur drone operator pleaded guilty to endangering an RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Hurricane aircraft, during a flypast at Buxton Carnival in 2022. He illegally flew his drone in close proximity to the aircraft which endangered the lives of the crew and people on the ground. Legal drone flights can also pose a significant threat to the safety of military aircraft and the public.
Did you know that military aircraft and drones both share the same 0-400ft airspace?
RAF (and Army and Navy) aircraft regularly conduct low flying training, across the whole of the country, with fast jets potentially as low as 100ft and helicopters even lower.
For everyone’s safety the RAF want to share the airspace with drones safely. Both operate on a 'see and avoid' principle but realistically, it is a lot easier for a drone operator to see (and hear) approaching low flying military aircraft than it is for RAF crews to spot a drone. If a drone operator sees or hears an aircraft approaching, they should immediately drop their drone as low as possible to keep both our aircraft and the drone safe. We will always try to avoid drones if we see them but, flying at high speeds, it is not guaranteed.
The below video (first published 2018) is a useful reminder of our low flying activity and drones. Since it was made, some additions have been made to the regulations - our RAF airfields are now protected by Flight Restriction Zones (FRZs), within which it is against the law to fly a drone without permission from the airfield.
Want to fly a drone in an RAF station’s Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ)?
An FRZ is a 2 or 2.5nm radius cylinder around an RAF airbase, with 1km x 5km ‘buffers’ on the runway approach and departure lanes. It goes from ground level to 2000ft and it is It is against the law to fly a drone of any mass or size within it. You can check the NATS website for details of FRZs and whether your drone flight falls within one.
You may, however, be able to fly your drone within an FRZ with permission from the RAF station. You can apply for permission by following the instructions under Flying Info of the station you wish to fly near.
Further general information on how to operate drones safely is available on the Civil Aviation Authority website.