This article will provide information about the use of Drones/Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)/Small Unmanned Aircrafts (SUA).


UoP Staff

Staff please consult the following Health and Safety page: ​UoP Drone Policy​. The information below will be of interest if you are planning on promoting or supporting drone use by students.



Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or more commonly Drones are an expanding area commercially and of interest in many areas of the University. You may want to use data obtained from drone in your submissions or even construct and program your own drone. Drones are, however, potentially dangerous and there are clear data protection issues around drone data collection. Drones in the UK are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority and data collection is regulated by the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and the Data Protection Act 2018.

The University strictly adheres to applicable laws, including guidelines published by the CAA.

Read the University of Portsmouth's full drone policy​ here.

New Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme

Under the UK’s new Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg will need to register as an operator and will need to take and pass an online education package. Both of these requirements become law on 30 November 2019.


What do you need to do?

The University of Portsmouth does not regulate your private use of drones. It does, however, have a duty of care to make sure that you are acting legally and safely when flying in connection with your studies. As such, students may only submit drone derived data or fly self-built drones in connection with their studies under the following conditions:

1) The student must have a relevant risk assessment (RA) approved by a competent member of staff. This is in addition to the normal departmental/school RA process for projects. Competent members of staff are the CAA trained pilots listed below. You can email ​​ to find out more.

2) The student must submit a RPAS ​declaration form​ with the RA.

3) The student must provide an Operator ID and Flyer ID from the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme.

4) The student must label any drone or model aircraft they are responsible for with the Operator ID and Flyer ID.

5) The student must demonstrate to the competent member of staff that they are competent in flying drones by providing one of the below:

  • BMFA A Certificate or higher for the class of drone being used.
  • CAA certificate of competence for the class of drone being used.
  • Other relevant qualification for the drone being used.
  • Self-certification of appropriate experience of the drone being used. Provide a statement or documentation.

6) The student must at all times comply with applicable law and be aware of the Drone Code.

7) The student must declare that the proposed use does not constitute commercial operations according to CAA guidance.

8) The student must declare that they have appropriate insurance.

9) The student must declare they have permission from the land owner for take-off and landing.

10) The student accepts all liability arising from their use of drones.

11) The student should follow the best practices outlined in the University Operations Manual (OM) for drones. This is for guidance only, students are not covered by the UoP OM.

12) If there are any ethical issues, these must be considered and an application be made to the Departmental/Faculty Ethics Committee if appropriate, e.g. to comply with the law collection of images of identifiable individuals may be subject to data protection legislation.



The British Model Flying Association offer civil liability insurance and personal accident insurance as part of their Membership. This covers training flights only. To be covered for data collection/testing of self-builds you will need to get the Data, Development and Demonstration Membership Extension. Check current Terms & Conditions before flying. There are insurers that offer insurance products for drones, make sure they cover the intended purpose of flights. The University will not check the insurance, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that activities are covered.


Flying Regulations (summary only, consult CAA CAP393)

In general, SUA/RPAS/drones must only be flown:

  • If reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
  • Within direct, unaided visual line-of-sight (VLOS) of the pilot.
  • No higher than 400 feet above the surface and no further than 500 metres from the SUA operator.
  • 150 metres away from congested areas and not within 150 metres of an open-air assembly of 1,000 persons or more.
  • Not directly overhead (at any height) or within 50 metres of persons, vehicles, vessels and structures, unless they are 'under the control of the person in charge of the SUA'.
  • Not within or near an airport.

In practical terms, and considering this from a local perspective, you will be unable to legally fly anywhere on Portsea Island without Standard Permission from the CAA due to the restrictions on congested areas. Additionally, Portsmouth City Council do not allow drones flights on their land without permission.

“The first thing to note is that in most cases this [Filming in Towns and Cities] will not be possible without having at least a standard permission from the CAA which will allow some types of flights within congested areas.

Further guidance on using small drones for commercial work can be found here.

We strongly recommend joining a local model flying club to learn to fly and practice your skills. Clubs provide training and will have a safe area to fly in. To find a local club consult the BMFA website.


Flying overseas

Students must comply with the requirements of the country they wish to fly in. A starting point for this information can be found here and the country's aviation regulator can be consulted for further guidance. If the standards abroad are not as strict as the UK, advice can be sought from one of the University’s trained drone pilots and the standards set out in the University OM should be followed as an example of good practice. This should be referred to in the Risk Assessment. A good guide to ethical considerations is included here.


Postgraduate students

We advise that you seek guidance from experienced drone pilots, especially if you are externally funded.


Where to go next?

Advice and guidance can be sought from the University’s trained drone Pilots or by contacting

Oliver Ing – Marketing Big Screen (​​)

Samuel Leung – Civil Engineering (​​)

Toby Meredith – CCI (​​)

Martin Schaefer – SEGG (​​)

David Hill - Faculty of Technology (​​)