Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones)

The use of Small Unmanned Aircraft (drones) has increased steadily over the past few years throughout the UK. This increase has resulted in tightening legislative control and the possibility of further restrictions in the future.

Careless and inexperienced operation of drones presents a serious risk to public safety and there have been a number of incidents involving the recreational use of drones during 2016.

Operators are reminded that drones should not be flown in excess of 400 feet high, within 150 metres of buildings or persons, and that visible line of sight (up to 500 metres) should be maintained at all times.

The Isles of Scilly is a busy flight path, particularly in the summer months when drone use is at its highest. Contact between a drone and one of the many aircraft using St Mary’s Airport could have tragic consequences. It is therefore vital that drone operators understand their responsibilities and exercise extreme caution when operating a drone on any of the islands.

​The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued guidance with respect to the use of ‘Unmanned Aircraft Operations in UK Airspace’ (CAP 722):

Where drones of less than 20kg are used purely for recreational purposes, and away from third parties or property, the CAA does not currently impose any regulatory burden.

However, where drones of less than 20kg are operated for the purpose of ‘Aerial Work’ (as defined by the Air Navigation Order 2009), permission to operate will be required from the CAA. Depending on drone weight and airworthiness, a certificate and/or operator license may be required. Any drone over 20kg will be subject to tighter control and regulation and anyone wishing to operate this category of drone should seek guidance from the CAA.

It should be noted that there is an ‘aerodrome traffic zone’ in place over St Mary’s in accordance with Section 166 of the Air Navigation Order. This aerodrome traffic zone is equivalent to a 2 nautical mile radius from the St Mary’s Airport Air Traffic Control Tower; a map indicating the relevant area is shown at the foot of this page.

No drone over 7kg in weight should be operated within this area of exclusion without the express permission of Air Traffic Control. The Manager: Air Traffic Services will request sight of any operator permission/certificate of airworthiness together with your proposed flight plan. Failure to obtain permission could result in investigation and the instigation of proceedings. You can contact Air Traffic Control at:

Phone: 01720 424335

Whilst there are no specific requirements with regard to drones weighing less than 7kg, in the interests of safety, we would request that operators of these aircraft should, prior to launch, make Air Traffic Control aware of any proposed operation (recreational or otherwise) to ensure that this will not interfere with any scheduled manned flights into or out of St Mary’s Airport. Although not currently a breach of the Air Navigation Order this process will ensure safe operations going forward.

Privacy law

Operators should be mindful of the obligations contained in Section 167 of the Air Navigation Order regarding surveillance, especially where recreational use includes the taking of images, or filming. Such use, independent of the advice contained in this letter, could represent a breach of privacy law for which the operator may be personally liable.