Drones and Unmanned Aircraft Flying

You are prohibited to fly your drone on the UCL Estate whether for academic, commercial or for fun; unless you have been authorised by UCL Estate.

Drones are commonly known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) / Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) / Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) are now widely available for commercial and recreational use. Drones can cause injury or damage if they are not used responsibly and so are subject to complex safety rules, which are underpinned by UK law. 

Mandatory requirements 

All drone flights whether for commercial or academic purposes or for fun are subject to safety rules and requirements set out in the Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2016; which requires that ‘persons must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property’.

The Air Navigation Order defines a congested area as being 'any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes' - this definition applies to almost ALL of the UCL Estate including the iconic Main Quadrangle, Malet Place etc.

The Air Navigation Order 2016

UCL Estates Access to Pictures

As part of the permission to fly a drone on UCL property, UCL Estates may request that operators provided copies of pictures / footage of UCL buildings to assist with maintenance activities.

Pictures will only be for building(s) in the immediate proposed drone operations flight area, and only if it is safe, practical and legal to do so.

If you own or fly a drone or model aircraft (between 250g to 20Kg) you must register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as you require an operator / flyer ID, you must label your drone or model aircraft and take a CAA test before you fly the device.

Civil Aviation Authority


You are prohibited to fly your drone on the UCL Estate whether for academic, commercial or for fun; unless you have been authorised by UCL Estates and can demonstrate:

  • The drone operator holds CAA authorisation to fly within a congested area.
  • The drone operator has suitable and specific insurance policy with a minimum of £1m Third Party cover per claim.
  • Suitable and sufficient safety measures are in place, to ensure that drone operations will not endanger people, property or heir aircraft.
  • It is against the law to fly a drone or model aircraft without having the required IDs. You can also be fined for breaking the law when flying. In the most serious cases, you could be sent to prison.


For due diligence Drone flight operations on UCL property must be undertaken by an individual or organisations that holds a CAA authorisation.

To obtain a permit the drone operator has to demonstrate their competence, provided safe flight operating arrangements, procedures and appropriate insurance cover.

The regulation has changed from 31 December 2020, in respect to UAS identification of both device and operators and who can fly them and where you can fly them.

Drone authorisation form

Please complete a Drone authorisation form, attaching copies of: 

  • the drone operator’s authorisation for Specific category flights [the CAA authorisation to conduct the flight operator / company to fly within a congested area];
  • the drone operator specific insurance cover and third party liability cover for the specific category flight;
  • a safety arrangements / risk assessment, method statement (RAMS) to demonstrate sufficient local safety measures have considered and demonstrated to ensure drone operations will not endanger people or property;
  • operating location, time periods other relevant information provided (i.e. the exact location, time period and parameters for the flight operations);

Completed forms need to be sent to fire@ucl.ac.uk for processing and information distribution to relevant parties.

> Electronic version for UCL staff (UCL login required)
> pdf version for external requests

Download full guidance →

Last updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Related information 

> See the latest edition of CAA CAP 722 and CAP2003 (CAA Publications)
> For drone safety information visit the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)  caa.co.uk/drones
> For drone safety information from NATS please go to nats.aero/airspace/drones/
> For the commercial site Drone Safe Register go to dronesaferegister.org.uk/