Do Hobby Pilots Need To Change Their Mindset?

It’s not long now before the new regulations come into effect, and registration will be set in stone and all drone pilots and RC model flyers will have to register and pay their £16.50, which has not gone down well in some circles.

The BMFA for instants, think that they should run the registration system as they already have public liability insurance builtin to their membership and feel they could run the system. But there has to be more than just registration. There has to be a better flight registration system that some feel should run in realtime and show not just drone pilots, but helicopters and small aircraft as just part of the system.

There are three types of drone pilots, hobby pilots, FPV pilots and commercial pilots.

Commercial pilots have PFCO and do paid work in the form of inspection, film production, etc. FPV use goggles and race drones in competition and amongst some of the things they do. Then there is the hobby pilots that are out doing filming and photography for themselves. Out of the three, it’s the hobby pilot that seems to gain the most press with them being responsible for closure of airports, filming people in their back gardens and just being reckless flying near aircraft at heights of over a thousand feet, and this is why new regulations have been imposed and the implement of registration. But it's the actions of the few that has brought some of this on hobby pilots as there is still no proof of a drone being responsible for closing an airport in the UK, but a RC model flyer was caught flying next to Heathrow airport and received a hefty fine and is model place smashed up.

The true hobby pilot will have spent over £1,000 on their drone plus the extras, and they stick to the regulations set out and are responsible in the way they fly. But many places in recent months are sticking up signs saying no drones allowed on this site, which is limiting where they can fly.

The problem is that many institutes like English Heritage think that the drone is going to damage their property of historical monuments, what they haven’t looked at is that the hobby pilot cannot fly closer than 50m from a building or structure. 50m is the minimum and is quite a distance that if the drone pilot sticks to the ruling then there would be know problem for the site. 

Hobby pilots, just want to film or photograph theses places to produce excellent images or film that really helps to promote the sites to not just other pilots but the general public and tourism industry. 

But the problem is that the more hobby pilots get told they can’t fly at theses places, turn to the ruling that the sites don’t own the airspace above them and they can legally takeoff and land from outside their site, but this doesn’t really help the situation and just adds more fuel to the fire. If hobby pilots keep playing this card, then they could join forces with each other to push for new regulations to stop hobby pilots from using the ruling of being able to fly from outside their land, so hobby pilots will be the ones to lose out and then the use of drones will just die off, and manufacturers won’t be able to do anything about it.


As a hobby pilot, I’ve adopted a way that I stand out by wearing a high vis jacket, using a helipad and foldable cones to cordon off the area I’m taking off and landing. This is very much how commercial pilots work and FPV pilot competitions are run. I’ve been flying for over a year now, and never had any problem with public as they have shown interest but been made aware of what I’m doing without having to ask me.

If your standing in a park with a controller in your hand looking up at the air, people may think you have lost it, or concerned about your doing and why. We are pilots of a flying aircraft, so shouldn’t we look the part or are we that vain that its a step too far? RC clubs will have people in high vis jackets monitoring flights, it’s part of what is expected.

When it comes to places that I photograph or film, and they are places of interest, I do my homework to see if there is any mention of no drones, and if there is then I don’t let it put me off as I contact them by email or phone and explain what I would like to do and how I work, and by doing this I get a better response from them by allowing me to fly over their property or on it. It doesn’t always work out but if all hobby pilots took a different look at how they approach a flight, then we can win not just the public over but sites that are owned by the Forestry Commission, English, Welsh and Scotish Heritage sites. I do have public liability insurance and I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but then I have public and indemnity insurance for my main photography, to me this is no different than taking out home or car insurance, you might not use it, but it's there just in case.

This is just a point of view from myself. Hobby pilots need to look at their future in what they do and where it is and where it can go if not done right. Attitude has to change with the times if they want to get on with what they enjoy, but don’t think you just have the right to fly where you want and how you want, those days have passed and now we have to look at the future in a more realistic way that’s positive for all. Getting on with people and organisations will bring the rewards that we want in the freedom to fly, but with the blessing and more to the point the respect of them, for what we do and how well we do it.

There will of course be those that will want to go underground with flying drones, but how long will they last and are they really wanting to be on the wrong side of the law after they have spent so much money? Yes it’s a shame our hobby has come down to this, but either you give up and sell your gear for next to nothing or make change work for you so you can still enjoy your hobby with the spotlight firmly on what you produce in outstanding images and film.