West London Model Aeroplane Club

Legal update

The laws governing model flying were changed at the start of 2021.  These completely replaced the existing laws and any flight is now only legal if it complies with one of the categories defined in this legislation.

More info and the BMFA competency test is available on their sub-site for legal stuff: https://rcc.bmfa.uk/


How it affects us - short version

In practice the new rules make little difference to what we do at the moment, due to the BMFA's Article 16 authorisation.

If you have a pre-2021 A/B certificate, you MUST go onto the BMFA portal at https://bmfa.azolve.com/ and tick the box to say you understand Article 16, and also the box to allow the BMFA to share data with the CAA.  Until you do so it is illegal to fly.

If you have done the BMFA's rcc you instead, need to log in to the same portal and tick just the box giving permission for the BMFA to share your data with the CAA.

You need to display your operator ID on your planes, and (from mid-2023) carry your Flyer ID with you somewhere.

The CAA now insist on reporting of incidents.  The rules already existed but were not widely followed.  Any injury, serious incident (=high risk of injury occurring) or other occurrence (=anything dodgy) which involved flight above 400ft, within 50m of uninvolved people, or a model that flew out of line of sight must now be reported. 

The BMFA has a page with more details of what needs to be reporting and an online tool which asks a few questions and will lead you through any necessary reporting.  Their page is here: https://rcc.bmfa.uk/reporting

Models can fly above 400ft if they are under 7.5kg and not multi-rotors.  Pickeridge however will be limited to 400ft due to the proximity of Denham aerodrome.


Details - The legal framework

To be legal in 2021 a flight must fall into one of 3 categories:

Open - this is the version open to anyone to rock up and fly.  This has restrictions on the combination of model size/weight and proximity to people and built-up areas.  However it is very restrictive except for VERY small models (under 250g); and any recreation area such as parks or beaches is restricted even if deserted.  We are not (in general) using this.  Much information on the web for drone flyers may be describing this category and is not applicable to us.

Specific - this is the category for flying with custom permission from the CAA.  The "Article 16 authorisation" is our permission to fly in this category.  Our flying is all under this authorisation.

Certified - this covers very large/complex operations and is subject effectively to the same rules as full-size aviation.  This category does not apply to us.


Article 16 Authorisation

This is the permission under which we fly, and allows flying not directly available to non-BMFA members.  This covers all flying at club sites.  You can also use this authorisation elsewhere, but should check the rules if flying in "built-up" areas, including all sports fields and parks.

If you want the details, there is an excellent guide to Authorisation on the BMFA rcc website: https://rcc.bmfa.uk/article-16.  This same text was in the Jan 2021 BMFA News.

Note that this permission is only available to current BMFA members.  So if a lapsed member flies it is no longer just an insurance question - the flight is now outright illegal (unless it fits the Open category, which is unlikely)


What has changed since 2019

If flying within the authorisation, not much.

The weight limits have increased to 7.5kg (some restrictions apply, such as 400' limit) and 25kg (can only fly under the LMA scheme) - but these weights now include fuel.

We cannot fly within 30m (diagonally, not horizontally) of any "uninvolved" person.  The distance varies in some cases, but for flying at our sites, assume 30m.  An uninvolved person is someone who has not been given any safety info by a club member - basically random strangers who wander in.  Club members and guests do not count.  If a stranger does wander in, once someone has explained where they can stand, and any risks, they are "involved" and the 30m no longer applies.

There is a minimum age of 10 to fly without close supervision.  And 14 years to be the supervising instructor.

It is a condition of the authorisation (and therefore a legal requirement) to comply with BMFA and club rules.

You also need 2 IDs...


IDs and what you need to have with you when flying

Operator ID: all models must carry the operator ID of the legal operator.  This is NOT (necessarily) the pilot.  Think of it as similar to the "registered keeper" of a car.  The operator is responsible for the maintenance and only allowing legal pilots to fly it.  This ID is obtained by paying the CAA £10 - which is usually done via the club and BMFA.  No test of any kind is required (and a non-flying parent can do this on behalf of under 18s)  2021 operator IDs were different from the 2020 ones, but won't change thereafter.  Don't confuse this with a "Flyer ID" from the CAA which is different - see below.

Proof of competence / Flyer ID: all pilots, flying solo, must have with them "proof of competence". Starting from mid-2023 everyone will be issued a "Flyer ID" to confirm they have one of these.  This can be any ONE of the following:

- BMFA membership with an A/B certificate from 2020 or earlier; only valid for current BMFA members (and you must have ticked the article 16 box on the membership portal, as above)

- A BMFA rcc test pass (their online legal test).  This will also appear on your card ONLY IF you upload the cert to the BMFA portal after passing it.  Note the rcc may need to be repeated every 3-5 years.

- the CAA's "DMARES" online legal test.  This is not recommended as it is very drone focused, so you would need to learn a load of irrelevant stuff.

Student pilots under "close supervision" are not legally pilots - the instructor is the pilot - and so don't require a proof of competence or a Flyer ID.  "Close supervision" means the instructor is stood right beside them at all times.  If flying their own model, they probably will have their own operator ID on the model, however.  Students need to do the BMFA rcc test before flying under looser supervision.

From mid-2030you will be issued with a Flyer ID if you have any of the 3 items listed above.  Flyer IDs were originally only issued for the DMARES test, but the CAA is starting to issue them to everyone.  You should have the Flyer ID with you when flying, but it does not need to be on the model.