On 13 March 2019 the drone flight restriction zone around airports and airfields changed, as outlined in The Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2019.
The government introduced a new rule stating that the 1km restriction from the airfield boundary is replaced by a restriction using the airfield’s existing aerodrome traffic zone (ATZ), which has a radius of either 2 or 2.5 nautical miles and then 5 kilometres by 1 kilometre zones starting from the point known as the ‘threshold’ at the end of each of the airfield’s runways. Both zones extend upwards to a height of 2,000 feet above the airfield. These new zones around protected aerodromes are known as Flight Restriction Zones (FRZ).
It is illegal to fly any drone at any time within these restricted zones unless you have permission from Air Traffic Control (ATC) at the airport or, if air traffic control is not operational, from the airport itself.
Note: ATZs are still relevant to SUA operation. The Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2019 Article 94A (4), states all remote pilots and operators must seek clearance/permission to operate within a Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) at a protected aerodrome. The FRZ will usually contain an ATZ.
Understanding Flight Restriction Zones
From CAP 1763:
You must not fly a small unmanned aircraft within the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome without first ensuring that you have permission to do so. The volume of airspace that comprises a ‘flight restriction zone’ is outlined in a table at paragraph (7) of article 94A. The flight restriction zone is active at all times and applies to all small unmanned aircraft of any mass (even very small ‘toys’).
In the vast majority of cases (i.e. aerodromes that have an ATZ), it primarily consists of two separate zones as follows:
- the ATZ at the protected aerodrome
- the runway protection zones at the protected aerodrome
The regulation also provides scope for the inclusion of ‘additional boundary zones’ which allow for cases where an aerodrome has a large land area and the shape of an aerodrome’s boundary means that the ATZ boundary falls within 1km of the aerodrome boundary, but is not accommodated by a runway protection zone. These ‘additional boundary zones add a small ‘bump’ to the relevant edge.
If the protected aerodrome is one of the few that do not have an established ATZ, the flight restriction zone takes the form of what is essentially a ‘2nm ATZ’ but without any runway protection zones (i.e. a 2nm circle from the mid point of the longest runway, from the surface up to 2,000 ft above the aerodrome’s level).
For aerodromes that have been specifically ‘prescribed’ as protected aerodromes (i.e. ones that do not fall into the EASA certified, national licensed or Government categories), the dimensions of the applicable flight restriction will be detailed separately at the time within the relevant establishing document.
UK FRZ Map
A map of the UK showing each airfield’s restriction is available below. This map enables UA operators to remain clear of the new UA FRZs that are created as part of the latest amendment to the ANO. You can move around the map and zoom in and out:
Permission to enter a Flight Restriction Zone
From CAP 1763:
Permission is always required before a small unmanned aircraft is flown within a flight restriction zone. How this permission is obtained varies and depends on the circumstances that apply at the time of the intended flight. While the precise details should always be checked, in very simple terms these can be described as:
- If there is an air traffic control unit (ATC) or a flight information service (FIS) unit in place (ie. there is someone in the ‘control tower’ at the time of the flight that you can speak to), then this ATC/FIS unit will issue the permission to fly. In this case, it may be possible to also obtain permission to fly above 400ft if the air traffic situation can permit this.
Note: An Air Traffic unit may only issue permission for a UAS to fly above 400 ft within the flight restriction zone.
- If there is ‘no one’ to contact in the ‘control tower’ (either because the flight is outside of the operational hours of the ATC/FIS unit or because the aerodrome does not have an ATC/FIS unit in the first place), then you must obtain the permission from the aerodrome operator.
Note: The aerodrome operator cannot permit flight above 400 ft.
General details of the aerodromes, and their contact numbers can be found on the individual aerodrome websites. Alternatively, full details of protected aerodromes are contained within the UK Aeronautical Information Publication (UK AIP) and the UK Military Aeronautical Information Publication (UK Mil AIP).
Frequently Asked Questions
A zone around a protected aerodrome which prohibits the flight of UAS unless permission from relevant ATS unit is obtained.
It is illegal to fly any drone at any time within these restricted zones unless you have permission from Air Traffic Control (ATC) or the Flight Information Service (FIS) unit at the airport or, if ATC and FIS is not operational, from the aerodrome operator itself.
An Air Traffic unit may only issue permission for a UAS to fly above 400 ft within the flight restriction zone. The aerodrome operator cannot permit this.
Need More Information?
To learn more about Flight Restriction Zones and Commercial Drone Operations, give our training team a call on 0330 111 8800 today!