The UK’s aviation regulatory regime includes three important components, the Air Navigation Order, the Civil Aviation Authority and National Air Traffic Services. 

Air Navigation Order (ANO)

The capstone legislation covering aviation in the UK is the ANO.  This can be found at:

The Air Navigation Order 2016 regulates matters such as aviation safety standards and aircraft navigation which fall outside the scope of EU regulation. It is wide-ranging, covering aircraftair crew, passengers, cargo, air traffic services and aerodromes.

The CAA website states:

'The ANO provides the foundation for a simpler and more proportionate approach to the regulation of many GA activities that fall under national (and not European) regulation. 

You'll notice a substantially different structure to that of the ANO 2009. The different drivers for change, most importantly the General Aviation ANO review, have prompted us to take a new approach to its layout. We believe that this will result in a clearer and easier to understand document and hope the new structure will help pilots (and others involved in the operation of non-EASA aircraft - the vast majority of them being involved in GA) find the information that they need more easily.

Scope, applicability and key definitions are now set out at the front. Derogations, or exceptions as they are known in UK law, that apply to a number of GA activities have also been moved close to the front. Previously many of these provisions were towards the back.

Some terms have also been changed to match those used by EASA and help make rules clearer to understand while sections of the Order have been organised to follow regulatory functions, like airworthiness, operations and licensing.'

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

The CAA is the UK’s specialist aviation regulator.  The CAA was among the first national aviation regulators to address regulation of UAS and their guidance and rules have matured through many revisions.  Originally there were two regulations, one dealing with model aircraft (CAP658) and another dealing with UAS used for aerial work (CAP722).  The recent rapid growth of small remotely piloted aircraft, which are available from retail outlets and which can be equally used for recreation and aerial work, has led to a new regime in which the regulations cover both recreational and business (commercial, government, non-profit organizations) use.  Until the end of 2020, the CAA worked closely with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to ensure harmony between EU and national regulations.  From 2021, there does not appear to be any mandate for this to continue to be the case, so while there may be much in common between EASA regulations and those of the CAA, UK UAS users of all types should check the UK CAA regulations at:

In this rapidly developing sector of aviation, those with an interest in the use of UAS in the UK should frequently check for new material.

National Air Traffic Services (NATS)

(Site Note:  Here the word drone is understood to include all UAS and RPAS)

The purpose of NATS is to become the acknowledged global leader in innovative air traffic solutions and airport performance.  NATS provides air traffic navigation services to aircraft flying through UK controlled airspace and at numerous UK and international airports. In 1992 it was recognised that as a service provider NATS should be operated at a distance from its regulator, the CAA. With that in mind, NATS was re-organised into a Companies Act company in April 1996 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the CAA.

The NATS website states:

'Drones represent an exciting development in aviation technology and offer new opportunities for emergency services, businesses and individuals across the globe.  However, they also pose an increasing challenge for air traffic control.

At NATS, we want to ensure the UK’s busy skies are safe and accessible for everyone, and we’re working hard to enable the safe integration of drones with manned aircraft to ensure all airspace users can operate safely alongside each other.

We’re developing and adopting new unmanned traffic control technologies aimed at streamlining unmanned flight approvals processes.

We’re also establishing unified air traffic management (UTM) capabilities that will future-proof our systems to provide safe and secure air traffic control services for everyone who wants to fly any type of aircraft in our skies.

For further information see:

Further Reading

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