What are the rules?
Aviation law regarding the operation of drones is published in the Air Navigation (Isle of Man) Order and applies to all drone operators. The complete legal documents are available here and the key elements regarding drone flights are as follows:
Article 74 – Endangering Safety of any Person or Property:
(1) A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger a person or property
Article 97 – Small Unmanned Aircraft:
(1) A person must not cause or permit an article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
(2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
(3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
(4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft that has a mass of more than 7kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft—
- (a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained [See Note 1];
- (b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any) at the aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained [See Note 2]; or
- (C) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for the airspace.
(5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by the Department [see Note 3].
Note 1: Within the Isle of Man this is the airspace known as the Isle of Man Control Zone (CTR) which starts at surface level and extends upwards to 6500ft. This is the area shaded in dark blue on the Isle of Man Airspace Chart below.
Note 2: The only Aerodrome Traffic Zone currently in the Isle of Man is at Ronaldsway Airport and is defined as the airspace within a radius of 2½ nautical miles of the centre of the airport up to a height of 2,000 feet.
Note 3: The legal definition of aerial work is shown below within Article 171. This is complex and for some types of flight aviation specific legal advice may be needed. However, in simple terms, if money has changed hands or the individual operating the drone benefits financially from the flight taking place, then it should initially be considered as potentially being aerial work pending legal confirmation.
Isle of Man Airspace Chart
Article 98 – Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft:
(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the Department.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are—
- (a) over or within 150 metres of a congested area [See Note 4];
- (b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
- (c) within 50 metres of a vessel, vehicle or structure that is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
- (d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of a person.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of a person.
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
Note 4: If the operator has permission from the CAA, he may be entitled to fly within a congested area (normally only if the aircraft weighs less than 7kg and no closer than 50m to persons, vehicles etc not under their control). The pilot/operator should be able to show a copy of their permission stating these limitations.
Article 167 - Interpretation:
'Congested area' in relation to a city, town or settlement means an area that is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes.
'Small unmanned aircraft' are unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight.
'Small unmanned surveillance aircraft' are small unmanned aircraft equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.
Article 171 - Meaning of Aerial Work:
(1) Subject to Part 28, aerial work means a purpose, other than commercial air transport, for which an aircraft is flown if valuable consideration is given or promised for the flight or the purpose of the flight.
(2) Aerial work consists of instruction or testing in a club environment if it consists of the giving of instruction in flying or the conducting of flying tests for the purposes of this Order in an aircraft owned by, operated by or operated under arrangements entered into by a flying club of which the person giving the instruction or conducting the test and the person receiving the instruction or undergoing the test are both members.
Temporary Airspace Restrictions:
Article 92 provides the powers to prohibit or restrict flying through the use of Temporary Airspace Restrictions, which are promulgated here.
These are routinely applied for the following events, and include a prohibition on drone operation within the specified geographical limits of the airspace, unless specifically permitted by Isle of Man Civil Aviation Administration:
- Isle of Man TT
- Tynwald Day
- Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling