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A few questions about legality of flying over land

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Richard-Inspire, May 9, 2016.

  1. Richard-Inspire

    Feb 6, 2015
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    I'd like to ask a few questions to help myself operate sensibly and legally, and I don't wish to get flamed for being honest about not know the answers to this.

    To pre-empt further comments, I'd say that I am considering getting my PFAW or whatever the acronyms are, as I prefer the idea having the 'full' knowledge and experience required in situations that I'd describe below. I don't even think I'll ever contribute anything that would be considered 'commercial', and frankly it wouldn't pay me well enough anyway, so my use is only really going to fall into the enthusiast category.

    Anyway, here we go:

    Yesterday I was out flying to capture a rather lovely sunset. I parked at the entrance to a massive field, and was flying over said field, nowhere near any buildings, people or anything else. When I came in to land, I was approached by a rather stroppy guy who lived in a house over the road, and he basically said I wasn't allowed to take photographs over 'his land'. He asked me if I'd be happy if he took a photo of my car (to which I said "yeah why not?"). His point being, presumably, that I can't photograph stuff that is not mine. After I landed, I had a perfectly sensible conversation with him, and explained I was just photographing the sunset. He calmed down a bit and said that there had been a bunch of burglaries recently in their area (remote country houses) preceded each time (the locals thought) by someone filming their area with drones. I sympathised, packed up and re-assured him I wasn't doing that.

    All in all, nothing dramatic, but it did sadden me.

    a) I'm pretty sure it wasn't his land, as there was a farmhouse on the land at the other end of the field, and he didn't look like a farmer. That is partially irrelevant of course.

    b) What is the law regarding flying over/photographing private land? Surely most land is private in one way or another, (in the UK at least).

    c) Is there any scenario, that with proper certification, I could have persuaded him I was fine to carry on (this would encourage me to get that certificaiton btw). I just want to take nice photos without people abusing me. For example, if I was wearing hi-vis with details of my certification, and a coned off area to keep the public out of the way etc.

    d) what would you guys have done in that situation?

    e) If I had the permission of the farmer to film there, is the anything that the 'neighbours' can do? ie I'm not even over their land, but someone else's.

    Genuine question, and I only want genuine answers. I'm not looking to start arguments here. It's a minefield out there!

  2. Plingboot

    Sep 1, 2015
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    Ideally you should have a landowner permission form which is signed by the landowner and details what you're doing and what you'll use the footage for. It is often wise to also do a leaflet drop - a few days beforehand - letting people you'll be there, so they can voice any concerns etc.
  3. The Editor

    The Editor Moderator
    Staff Member

    Aug 7, 2013
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    The simple answer is - There's nothing he can do! (With some caveats). One of those caveats being National trust land - you are not allowed to fly over NT estates without explicit permissions.
    As I'm sure you are aware it is the CAA who are responsible for airspace in the UK not a landowner. The same way that if a private plane flew over the land would he jump and down and say the pilot can't fly there any more.
    The caveats are that under the Air Navigation Order, flying of UAV's (sub 20kg) is not permitted within 50m of any structure, vehicle or vessel not under the pilots control.
    So even if there were buildings on the land you would be permitted to fly to within 50m of them (30m for take off or landing purposes).
    However, you would NOT be permitted (without permission) to take off and land on someone's property/land. Flying over it and maintaining the correct stand-offs is perfectly acceptable.
    People tend to get more freaked about having a camera on board and think you are some kind of weirdo/pervert and photographing everything.
    I have only ever had a handful of 'incidents' where people have approached me with a negative attitude (most are genuinely curious and fascinated by the technology).
    Of these people who have been negative I have always been extremely polite and shown them a copy of my PFAW and also offer to show them my insurance as well.
    I had one individual who said he was going to call the police and I said "That's not a problem, would you like to borrow my phone?".
    On the whole, it is better to gain permission if at all possible, however, sometimes it is not feasible to get a blanket permission in which cases you work round it and in the confines of CAP722 166/7 which is granted by the CAA. As long as you stay within those confines you are flying legally.
  4. Richard-Inspire

    Feb 6, 2015
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    great. that's kind of what I thought. I understood their nervousness, but also I thought I was within my rights. I figured that if I had some 'official' paperwork then I'd be more easily able to placate the situation and carry on.