flying drone over uk prisons guide

Flying Drones Over UK Prisons: What You Need to Know [2024 New Laws]

You can’t fly a drone over a prison in the UK without permission. UK law bans drones within 400 meters of closed prisons to prevent smuggling. Breaking this rule can result in fines up to £2,500 and even prison time. To get approval, you need to submit a detailed exemption request to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).

This process includes a 28-day notice period and specific conditions for safe operation.

Curious about how to get that approval and what it entails?

Keep on to find out more.

me performing solar survey with thermal drone

UK Drone Restrictions Over Prisons

In the UK, drone laws are strict to ensure safety and security for all. You can’t just fly your drone anywhere you please. There are specific rules you must follow, especially when it comes to sensitive areas like prisons.

Flying a drone over or near a prison is a serious offense, and doing so without permission could land you in a heap of trouble. To keep things safe, drones are banned from flying within 400 meters of any closed prison or young offender institution in England and Wales.

This rule is designed to prevent contraband smuggling—such as drugs, phones, and weapons—into these facilities.

If you’re caught violating this restriction, you could face hefty fines up to £2,500 or even prison time if you’re involved in smuggling illicit items. To legally fly a drone near a prison, you’ll need to go through a rigorous approval process.

This involves submitting a notification form to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and getting approval from His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).

Without these approvals, you’re risking serious legal consequences. So, always ensure you’re compliant with these regulations before taking to the skies.

TIPS FOR FLYING YOUR DRONE OVER UK PRISON:

If you are planning to fly your drone over a UK prison, it is important to keep in mind some key tips to ensure a safe and successful flight. Here are five tips to help you get started:

  1. Familiarise Yourself with the Law: Before flying your drone over a UK prison, it is important to familiarize yourself with the relevant drone laws and regulations. This will help you avoid any legal complications and ensure that you are operating your drone in a safe and responsible manner.
  2. Check No-Fly Zones: Before flying, it is important to check if there are any no-fly zones or flight restriction areas around the UK prison. This information can be found on the CAA website or on a no-fly drone website.
  3. Obtain Permission: If you are flying your drone over a UK prison, it is important to obtain permission from the relevant authorities. This may include the local air traffic control and the police, as well as the prison authorities themselves.
  4. Avoid Hazards: When flying your drone over a UK prison, it is important to avoid any potential hazards that may cause damage to your drone or harm others. This includes avoiding flight over crowded areas or restricted airspace, as well as maintaining a safe distance from buildings and other structures.
  5. Plan Your Flight: It is important to plan your flight in advance, taking into consideration factors such as weather conditions and battery life. This will help ensure that you are able to complete your flight safely and successfully.
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Drone Flights Over UK Prisons Exemption Request Process

To legally fly a drone over a prison in the UK, you must follow a specific exemption request process.

First, understand it’s an automatic offence to fly within 400 meters of any closed prison or young offender institution without an exemption.

To start, you’ll need to submit a notification form to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

You can find this form on the CAA’s website, and when filling it out, choose ‘Airspace Restrictions (including exemption requests)’ from the activity category.

Next, provide at least 28 days’ notice for your request to be processed.

This means you have to plan well in advance, as requests with shorter notice periods mightn’t be considered. After submitting the form, you’ll receive an automated email confirming that your details have been received.

Your application will then be reviewed by His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). If approved, they’ll issue an exemption detailing the specific conditions under which your drone flight can occur.

For any questions during this process, you can contact HMPPS at drone.RFZapplication@justice.gov.uk.

Following these steps ensures you comply with the regulations and avoid hefty fines or legal consequences.

abort drone flight

Notice and Confirmation

After submitting the notification form to the CAA, you’ll receive an automated email confirmation that your details have been received. This email serves as an acknowledgment that your request is in the system, but it doesn’t mean approval has been granted yet.

It’s essential to keep this email for your records as it confirms the start of the review process.

Make sure your notification form is complete and accurate to avoid any delays.

Double-check that you’ve provided all necessary information and that it aligns with the CAA’s requirements. Missing or incorrect details can result in your application being returned or rejected, prolonging the process.

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You should also be aware that the CAA requires a minimum of 28 days‘ notice to process your exemption request.

This means you need to plan ahead and submit your form well in advance of your intended flight date.

Submitting your form closer to the deadline might jeopardize your chances of obtaining approval in time.

Once you’ve received the confirmation email, the next step involves waiting for further correspondence. The CAA will review your application and may contact you for additional information if needed.

Patience and prompt responses to any follow-up inquiries are crucial during this period.

Approval From HMPPS

The His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) will carefully review your application to determine if an exemption can be granted.

Once you’ve submitted your notification form to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), HMPPS steps in to assess whether your drone flight can proceed within the restricted 400-meter zone of the prison or young offender institution.

HMPPS examines various factors when processing your application. They’ll look at the purpose of your flight, ensuring it’s legitimate and essential.

You’ll need to provide clear, detailed information about your intended operation, including the exact location, time, and safety measures you’ll implement.

If your application meets their criteria, HMPPS will issue an exemption, laying out specific conditions you must follow.

These conditions are designed to ensure the safety and security of the prison environment.

For example, they might specify exact flight paths, times, or even require supervision during the drone operation.

Contact for Queries

For any questions about the application process, you can directly contact HMPPS at drone.RFZapplication@justice.gov.uk. They’re your go-to resource for any clarification you need regarding the drone flight exemption process.

Whether it’s about form submission, specific requirements, or the status of your application, this email address connects you directly with the appropriate authorities.

When reaching out, be sure to include all relevant details in your email. Mention your name, contact information, and specifics about your drone flight request.

Clear and concise communication will help expedite your query and get you the information you need faster. If you’ve already submitted an application, referencing your case number can also be beneficial.

HMPPS typically responds within standard business hours, so if you’re emailing outside these times, expect a delay. Patience is key, as they handle numerous inquiries.

If your question is urgent, you might want to indicate the urgency in your email subject line.

Conclusion

Navigating the UK’s drone regulations might seem daunting, but don’t worry—you can still achieve your aerial ambitions legally. Remember, you can’t fly within 400 meters of prisons without risking hefty fines or prison time.

However, by following the exemption request process and getting approval from HMPPS, you’re good to go.

Always stay informed and proactive. As James Leslie, a drone pilot running the UK’s largest drone survey service, I understand the importance of following regulations to capture stunning shots responsibly.

If you need a drone service, feel free to email Skykam at jamie@skykam.co.uk for assistance.

Happy flying!

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