Having passed my flight test and submitted the paperwork to the CAA I am now patiently awaiting my licence. During the course of the training other students were seeking clarification on where they could fly and we also considered various case studies.
As a Chartered Surveyor I thought it would be useful to explain my understanding of a few issues which were raised during our various discussions.
First topic, seeking the land owners permission. Every sqaure metre of the UK is owned by somebody ranging from the Government to private individuals. So whether you are in a supermarket carpark, a public park or even on the side of the road someone will own the land you are standing on. Hopefully the client commissioning the work will have confirmed they own it. I should add that the relevant legislation on the use of RPAS isn't that clear. It refers to "land owners permission", what about the person or business occupting land under a short term licence, they are not technically the land owner. However that issue is for another day. There will be many people though flying drones for pleasure and could quite easily be flying a drone from a public park, up a hill or even on a beach, someone owns that land. They are unlikely to have the land owners permission to fly a drone.
Footpaths and rights of way. I have heard people say it is OK to fly from a right of way as it is public land. Well there are three issues here (1) land ownership (2) what can you do on a right of way and (3) the general public. A right of way, bridleway or a RUPP (Road Used as a Public Path) are in essence a right for someone to go from A to B. As above someone owns the land over which the footpath passes, being on a right of way doesn't mean you have the land owners permission.
A footpath of right of way grants you the right to pass and repass and occassionally stop to admire the view or for example have a sandwich. Stopping on a footpath for say an hour isn't technically allowed. Finally and rather obviously your flying could be interrupted by a member of the public exercising their right to use the footpath. You cannot physically stop them. I keep well away from rights of way.
Next topic is protected species. You could quite easily receive a commission to carry out roof inspections or a photographic record of some buildings. During the course of the flight you could very easily see a birds nest and then fly nearer to take a closer look and get some better pictures. May seem harmless enough. However lets for a minute assume it is late Spring and you come across a nest with young in it. You learn that they are Barn Owls. If you disturb certain birds whilst they are nesting, buidling a nest or go near a nest that contains young you are breaking the law and could be finded upto £5,000 AND face upto a 6 months jail sentence.
It is a area of law many people may not be aware of and also one that to me is pretty subjective. I am not aware of many actions being brought by the Natural England but when they do have the requisite evidence they will take action.
I stand to be corrected on any point of law but I hope this short blog outlines some of issues facing drone pilots.