Only a few years ago, a drone was rather a tedious noise. Following a very rapid evolution, those little hi-tech flying machines have become cheap, simple to operate and suitable for a wide variety of recreational and commercial uses, including surveying buildings and monitoring crops.

Cheap technology does have its advantages, but it also has its downsides. Drones have disrupted airports, endangered aircrafts, flown contraband into prisons, scared endangered wildlife and harassed individuals on their own property. Not surprisingly, the law of the land does not evolve as fast as technology. However, with regard to drones, the law is changing speedily, no doubt prompted by recent events.

A Drones Bill is currently in preparation, following a public consultation which ended last September. Already, in March, the “no fly zone” around airports was changed. It had been illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport. This has now been extended to 5km.

More generally, under laws regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), consumer drones must be flown no higher than 120m, and be kept at least 50m away from people and private property, and 150m from congested areas and organised open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 people.

In addition, you need to register with the CAA if you’re planning to use your drone for commercial purposes.

If the drone is used purely for recreational purposes, it may be covered under a home and contents insurance policy, but it is worth checking. If you use the drone in your business, say for crop monitoring, then it is classed as non-recreational use and third party liability insurance is required.

If you offer the drone as a service to somebody else, then the use will be classed as commercial and the relevant consents and commercial insurance would be required. This means holding a Permission for Commercial Operation, as issued by the CAA. This requires proof of Remote Pilot Competence which is typically gained via a training course.

Regulations are trying to keep pace with the technology so do keep up to date on what is required to fly your drone legally.