Kite Aerial Photography and UK Law

This document provides references to some primary documents that define the legal framework within which Kite Aerial Photography operates in the UK. It may be useful in answering such questions as:

One key piece of UK legislation is the Air Navigation Order 2000 (otherwise known as Statutory Instrument 2000/1562). This lays down detailed and comprehensive "rules of the air" including matters such as the markings and lights to be displayed on aircraft, the licensing of crew members, drunkenness of passengers and crew, etc. For our purposes it contains three key statements.

First, it contains a table (Schedule 2, Part A) that classifies aircraft into categories as follows:

Lighter than air aircraft

Non-power driven

Power driven

Free Balloon
Captive Balloon


Heavier than air aircraft

Non-power driven

Power Driven (flying machines)


      Self-launching Motor Glider
      Powered Lift (Tilt Rotor)

This makes it clear that a kite is an aircraft (heavier-than-air, non-power-driven) as far as this piece of UK legislation is concerned.

The second important statement is in article 86 which contains rules for Balloons, kites, airships, gliders and parascending parachutes. Paragraph 2b (v) states:

86.2b (v) "a kite shall not be flown at a height of more than 60 metres above ground level" subject to the proviso: "without the permission in writing of the CAA and in accordance with any conditions subject to which that permission may have been granted."

Although kites weighing less than 2kg were exempted from this rule in earlier ANO's, they no longer are because the third statement, in article 132, states:

132. The provisions of this Order other than articles 58, 64, 85(1), 86, 87, 118(1)(b), 129(1), (2) and (5) shall not apply to or in relation to:
      (a) any small balloon;
      (b) any kite weighing not more than 2 kg;
      (c) any small aircraft; or
      (d) any parachute, including a parascending parachute

Since article 86 does apply, kites in the UK are restricted to flying below 60 metres (around 196 feet). In fact the restriction is 30 metres within the aerodrome traffic zone of a notified aerodrome during the notified operating hours of that aerodrome (article 86.2b (iv).

Getting permission from the CAA is not an impossible task however. Permission has to be sought for each site, giving at least 28 days notice, but permission can be granted for periods up to six months. I have made the submission form available for downloading here.

You can ignore the other restrictions unless you are in the habit of dropping articles from your rig (articles 58 and 87) or endangering the safety of persons or property (article 64) or are subject to a ban on flying by the Secretary of State (articles 85 and 118). Note that kites weighing less than 2kg are exempt from article 84. This refers to another Statutory Instrument, the Rules of the Air (SI 1996/1393).

Article 104 imposes restrictions on aerial photography on aircraft which are registered outside the UK. By implication, the order imposes no such restrictions on aerial photography on aircraft registered within the UK.

The Civil Aviation Authority, which is empowered to regulate all civil flying activities over the United Kingdom, provides a Guide to Safe Flying for Model Aircraft in document CAP 658 which lays down guidelines for where, when and how model aircraft may be flown. Interestingly, it turns out that if your model weighs more than 7Kg (15 lbs or so) then you must ask the CAA for permission to do aerial work - that is receive remuneration for flying activities. The rule specifically includes aerial photography.

However this document specifically excludes balloons and kites from the rules it lays down (see Definition of a Small Aircraft - paragraph 1 of Chapter 2).

Statutory Instrument 1987 No. 776, the Wireless Telegraphy (Exemption) (Amendment) (Model Control Apparatus) Regulations 1987, is the piece of legislation defining the various frequency bands allocated for "model control" in the UK. It defines four frequency bands for "model control" as follows:


26.96 MHz to 27.28 MHz


458.5 MHz to 459.5 MHz


34.995 MHz to 35.255 MHz


40.665 MHz to 40.955 MHz

Bands 1 (27MHz) and 2 (459MHz) are defined for general "model control".

Band 3 (35MHz) is restricted to: model control equipment which is capable of being used solely for the purpose of controlling the movement of model aircraft Band 4 (40MHz) is restricted to: model control equipment which is capable of being used solely for the purpose of controlling the movement of models on land or on water surface, and whose design employs exclusively the use of frequency modulation techniques In addition the 433MHz band has been allocated for download telemetry from model aircraft.

This Statutory Instrument does not define 'model aircraft'. However it is an amendment to the earlier Wireless Telegraphy (Exemption) Regulations 1980 (S.I. 1980/1848), which defines "model control equipment" as:

wireless telegraphy apparatus designed or adapted for the purpose of controlling (otherwise than by means of telephony) the movement of a model vehicle, vessel or aircraft or a model of any other type by means of the emission of electro-magnetic energy from that apparatus and the reception of such energy by receiving apparatus in the model

It's clear that the equipment used for R/C KAPping is designed for the purpose of controlling ... the movement of ... , though it might be a stretch to describe a KAP cradle as a model.

OFCOM (which replaced the earlier Radiocommunications Agency as the appropriate regulatory authority), issues Information Sheets on these matters. RA 60 covers "radio-controlled models" and provides a useful summary.

The documents mentioned above are all currently available on-line:

  • Air Navigation Order 2000 (SI 2000/1562)
  • CAA Guide to Safe Flying for Model Aircraft (CAP 658) (A PDF Document)
  • Wireless Telegraphy (Exemption) (Amendment) (Model Control Apparatus) Regulations 1987 (SI 1987/776)
  • Wireless Telegraphy (Exemption) Regulations 1980 (SI 1980/1848). Note that this is not available from the HMSO website, but it is available from the Jersey (Channel Islands) legal site.
  • OFCOM RA 60
  • See also The UK Radio Control Council's website which has frequency tables for many countries, including the UK, most of Europe and the USA.

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