6. Multirotor model aircraft equipped with cameras legal requirements and guidance.

The sport of model flying has undergone some significant changes over the last few years, many of them technology based. Developments in areas such as batteries, motors and control systems have made types of aircraft that were previously only within the remit of the experienced and resourceful home builder, a practical “off the shelf” proposition.

The BMFA regularly receives queries from enthusiastic potential aviators particularly, with regard to aerial photography and the use of multirotors as a tool for this purpose.

This document aims to answer some of the questions that we are asked on a regular basis by novice pilots and also by modellers who have flown more traditional types of model aircraft and are branching out into multirotor aircraft and aerial imaging for the first time, (the majority of this guidance also applies to any type of model aircraft used to carry a camera).

Camera carrying aircraft come in all shapes and sizes, from the micro quadcopters with tiny built-in cameras, to the larger multirotors capable of supporting a considerable payload and imaging capability, many newcomers to this aspect of model flying will purchase the readily available medium sized quadcopters capable of lifting popular “action” cameras.

The important point before flying your camera equipped multirotor, is to be clear on the legal restrictions and conditions placed on this type of activity.


You must be registered with the CAA and your operator number applied to your aircraft in an easily accessible position. All flying activity is fully covered by Air Navigation Orders (ANOs) and these must be adhered to at all times to avoid prosecution. Please refer to the BMFA members handbook on-line so you are familiar with the very latest information.


As ever a little common sense goes a long way towards interpreting and complying with the relevant legal requirements.

The primary aim of the various Air Navigation Order provisions is to prevent members of the public being endangered and full-size aviation being endangered, to a lesser degree these provisions also help to limit the potential for causing nuisance and for invading privacy.


Another primary consideration is the purpose of the flight, the flying of a model aircraft with a camera on board is recognised as a sport and recreational activity by the CAA and therefore covered under the terms of the insurance provided as part of the BMFA membership package (provided that the activity is legal in respect of the Air Navigation Order).

However, where a flight is made for payment or the purpose is in any way commercial i.e. not as a sport and recreational activity, then it becomes classed as aerial work by the CAA and requires an exemption to the Air Navigation Order to be issued in order to take place lawfully.

Details of aerial work and exemption application information can be obtained through the CAA website www.caa.co.uk

It should be borne in mind that “aerial work” is an entirely separate activity to model flying, and as such it must be insured under the terms of an appropriate commercial policy, the standard policy provided to BMFA members does not provide cover for aerial photography on a commercial basis.


We receive regular queries regarding appropriate flying locations for multirotor aircraft.

Whilst the overall considerations are the same as for any other model aircraft, there is no doubt that multirotors open up new areas for flying due to their ability to operate in relatively small spaces, this does however mean that careful consideration is required before flying in order to remain lawful.

If intending to fly on private land then the permission of the landowner should be sought, if flying on public land such as a park or open access site then you must ensure that there are no bylaws in place specifically prohibiting or restricting model flying.

The other main consideration is the overall suitability of the location for the activity, and that all flying can take place in compliance with Article 16.


  • Be familiar with the legal requirements relating to your chosen activity.
  • Do not endanger person or property.
  • Ensure that the proposed flying location is appropriate and safe.
  • Maintain line of site for the purposes of control at all times (see CAA Exemption for specific details of FPV flight permissions).
  • Charging for flights renders the activity Aerial Work.
  • Do not constitute a nuisance.
  • Do not invade privacy.
  • Ensure that appropriate liability insurance cover is in place to protect you in the event of an incident leading to a claim against you.