Safety and Airspace Regulation Group
Unmanned Aircraft Systems
UAS Airspace Restrictions Guidance and Policy
Published by the Civil Aviation Authority, 2020
Civil Aviation Authority Aviation House Beehive Ring Road Crawley
West Sussex RH6 0YR
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First published December 2020
Second edition of CAP 722C, December 2022
Note: Changes made since the previous published edition are notified in red underline. Content that has been moved, but not changed, is not notified in red underline.
First Edition December 2020
This is the first edition of this document.
Second Edition December 2022
Amendments to support the Acceptable Means of Compliance & Guidance Material to Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as retained (and amended in UK domestic law) Under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Change in definition of UAS Geographical Zone, within CAP 722C, to reflect the definition in UK Regulation (EU) 2019/947.
The purpose of this document is to:
Describe what is meant by a UAS Geographical Zone, and how the UK has implemented Article 15 of Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as retained (and amended in UK domestic law) Under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
Describe how UAS operations may be restricted or prohibited using an airspace structure, in order to facilitate or protect another type of aviation activity, or to protect an area on the ground.
Describe how UAS operations may be facilitated using an airspace structure to restrict other aviation activity.
Provide guidance to those who are applying to establish an airspace restriction.
Provide guidance to those who are responsible for managing an airspace restriction.
For detailed information on the procedures for establishing airspace restrictions and the process for making changes to airspace, reference should be made to other publications as referred to throughout this document.
This document is intended to be read by the following stakeholders with an interest in airspace restrictions in the context of UAS:
Individuals or organisations that wish to restrict unmanned aircraft (UA) in close proximity to their infrastructure, activity or location; and
UAS Operators who wish to facilitate UAS Operations, by restricting access to other airspace users; and
Individuals or organisations that wish to facilitate UAS operations without restricting access to other airspace users, by mandating a certain level of equipage within the airspace.
The content of this CAP does not replace Civil Aviation Regulations, or procedures notified within the UK Aeronautical Information Publication.
The following references are provided for convenience and are not exhaustive. Readers are advised to take note of all applicable regulations and of any amendments to the regulations and documents listed below that are implemented after publication of this document:
The Air Navigation Order 2016, as amended
UK Aeronautical Information Publication
CAP 1616 Airspace Change: Guidance on the regulatory process for changes to airspace
CAP 1618 Airspace Design: Unusual aerial activities published in the UK AIP
CAP 1868 A Unified Approach to the Introduction of UAS Traffic Management
UAS Implementing Regulation 2019/947, as amended; (CAP1789 provides a consolidated version)
CAP 722 Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance
CAP 1054 Aeronautical Data Quality
UK Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material for Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as retained (and amended in UK domestic law)
Provision is made for the establishment of UAS Geographical Zones (airspace restrictions) within UK Regulation (EU) 2019/947 under Article 15. CAA policy is that an application for such an airspace restriction should not be made under this article, but instead should be progressed either via the ACP process or article 239 process, described in this document. Airspace will not be established on the basis of Article 15 and will only be established on the basis of existing national regulation.
It should be noted that the CAA can only provide information on aviation policy, regulations and permissions, and not those implemented by other sectors. UAS operators must also therefore consider any other applicable restrictions and legitimate interests of other statutory bodies such as Local Authorities, and those of other sectors such as Emergency Services and Transport.
Unless otherwise stated, all enquiries relating to this CAP must be made to: UAS Unit
Civil Aviation Authority
Safety and Airspace Regulation Group Aviation House
Beehive Ring Road Crawley
West Sussex RH6 0YR
General enquiries regarding other matters should be made through the contact form found on the CAA website).
Specific Airspace enquiries may be made by contacting the CAA as follows (Please note: The CAA will not be able to respond to general enquiries sent to individual Airspace contacts):
The Airspace Change Proposal Process
Enquiries about the airspace change process should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Restriction of Flying Regulations
Airspace change portal
The CAA has a dedicated portal for proposed changes to UK airspace. It provides communities and all interested stakeholders with a one-stop shop of information about designs of UK airspace that might impact them and an easy way to provide their views about changes. The portal can be accessed here.
Airspace Access Complaints
An airspace user may report issues with access to a UAS Geographical Zone to the CAA. Such a report may be made to the CAA UAS Unit here. The CAA does not undertake to investigate all reports but may do so on occasion if deemed necessary.
The term ‘UAS Geographical Zone’ is a term for airspace restrictions established under UK Regulation (EU) 2019/947 Article 15.
It is defined as: ‘a portion of airspace established by the Secretary of State that facilitates, restricts or excludes UAS operations in order to address risks pertaining to safety, privacy, protection of personal data, security or the environment, arising from UAS operations’ , within Article 2(4), and is created under the provisions of Article 15.
It is CAA policy that airspace restrictions must be established using the process set out in Chapter 2, and that UAS Geographical Zones are currently not established within the UK.
This section provides a basic introduction to the other types of airspace restriction that may affect the operation of a UA.
An airspace of defined dimensions within which the flight of UAS and/or manned aircraft is restricted in accordance with certain specified conditions. Restricted Areas may be temporary or permanent.
Airspace which has been notified as such, within which activities dangerous to the flight of aircraft may take place or exist at notified times.
Examples of Danger Areas include military sites where activities take place at certain times that may be dangerous to UAS and/or manned aircraft.
An airspace of defined dimensions within which the flight of UAS and manned aircraft is prohibited. Prohibited Areas may be temporary or permanent.
Article 15 of the UAS Implementing Regulation gives provision for establishing UAS Geographical Zones for the purposes of Safety, Security, Environmental or Privacy reasons.
Airspace will not be established in the UK under Article 15 of the UAS Implementing Regulation. Instead, the airspace restriction is achieved through the established UK airspace reservation system.
Once the need for an airspace restriction has been identified and agreed, based on the principles summarised within this document, an applicable airspace restriction (see section 1.2.2) will be established within the current reservation scheme in accordance with the ANO.
Restrictions on UAS which exist in law, but are not defined as airspace constructs, are not considered UAS Geographical Zones. For example, the flight of any UAS above 400ft is restricted and an operational authorisation must be obtained from the CAA. This does not mean that the portion of airspace above 400ft is a UAS Geographical Zone. This same principle also applies to congested areas, or any other area where the flight of a UAS is restricted in law only, and with no airspace provision.
Promulgation of Airspace Restrictions
All airspace restrictions are promulgated by existing methods. These methods include publishing information in the UK Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP1), Aeronautical Information Circulars (AIC) and NOTAMs.
NATS Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) produces the AIP and is the UK’s authoritative source of aeronautical information; the data published within the AIP meets data quality requirements that are imposed on the UK by ICAO Annex 15.
Full details of the airspace restriction will be included within the remarks column. Unless otherwise stated, all airspace restrictions (Danger, Restricted or Prohibited) are applicable to both manned and unmanned aviation.
When a Prohibited, Restricted or Danger Area is established it is given a unique identification and name. The identifier follows the format: EG PXXX (Prohibited Areas), EG RXXX (Restricted Areas) and EG DXXX (Danger Areas). Restricted Areas that are only applicable to UAS follow the format: EG RUXXX.
Airspace restrictions which are applicable to UAS only will not be published on Visual Flight Rules (VFR) charts, in order to reduce excessive clutter. Prohibited, Restricted and Danger Areas that are applicable to both manned and unmanned aircraft, or manned aircraft only, are published on VFR Charts. VFR Charts are used to support manned aircraft operations.
1 The AIP is the national publication of all UK aeronautical information of a lasting character which is essential to air navigation for both manned and unmanned flights.
FRZs are established around protected aerodromes and space sites, as described in section 3.2. Details regarding the exact dimensions of each FRZ (and, where applicable, Runway Protection Zones) are published in the UK AIP (Section ENR 5.1 Prohibited, Restricted and Danger Areas). FRZ information is also made available to UAS operators on the NATS AIS website via visual and electronic formats as explained below.
Application for establishing an Airspace Restriction
Chapter 2 provides basic information and guidance to those wishing to apply for the establishment of an airspace restriction.
Should an individual or organisation (referred to as the Sponsor) wish to initiate a proposal to carry out a specific operation, they should refer to CAP 1616 Airspace Change2 and should contact the CAA, as set out in the ‘point of contact’ section.
Further information about airspace restrictions which are applicable to both manned and unmanned flights is contained within the UK AIP, En-Route Section 1 General Rules and Procedures, Paragraph 1.1.5.
The vast majority of airspace restrictions should be applied should be applied for and established through the CAP1616 ACP (Airspace Change Process) procedure. Sponsors should also be familiar with the CAA Danger Area policy.
In some cases, airspace restrictions may be established through the Restriction of Flying Regulations (ANO article 239) on a case by case basis and must be fully justified under the associated ANO criteria.
Sponsors should contact CAA Airspace Regulation email@example.com with any related queries.
Airspace restrictions applicable to UA may be established by the CAA on behalf of, and with the approval of, the Secretary of State in accordance with the UK Air Navigation Order (article 239) when the Secretary of State deems it necessary in the public interest. Any agency or organisation wishing to establish an airspace restriction without using the ACP process, under article 239, should contact CAA Airspace Regulation, noting the requirement for a 90 day lead in time for the establishment of an RA(T).
2 CAP1616 Airspace Change: Guidance on the regulatory process for changes to airspace
CAP 1616 contains further information and guidance on the ACP process, including the relevant procedures that must be followed. CAP1616 must be read and understood fully by anyone wishing to make use of this process. This section outlines at a high level, the principles that must be met for any such application.
The ACP ensures that applications for an airspace restriction are considered using the applicable regulatory mechanism and ensures that all proposals receive the appropriate amount of regulatory scrutiny and consultation, while keeping the airspace change process proportionate for less significant proposals.
Any data provided to the CAA to support an ACP application must be fit for purpose and in line with the necessary aeronautical data quality (ADQ) requirements as set out in EU Reg 73/2010 and further described in CAP 1054 (also see the Aeronautical Data Associated with Airspace Design (CAP 1616)).
The CAA will assess proposals for an airspace restriction using the process and regulations described within CAP 1616 and the Air Navigation Order.
When preparing a proposal for an airspace restriction, Sponsors should consider the ANO article 239 requirements:
A restriction made under ANO article 239 may be made in the public interest for the following reasons:
Due to the intended gathering or movement of a large number of persons; or
Due to the intended holding of an aircraft race, or contest, or a flying display; or
Due to reasons of national defence, or any other reason affecting the public interest.
Managing an Airspace restriction
Once an airspace restriction is established, Sponsors must discharge their responsibilities appropriately. These responsibilities are summarised within this section.
Handling Requests to Fly within an Airspace Restriction
The sponsor of any airspace restriction should enable fair and equitable use of the airspace for all airspace users, including UAS. Any legitimate request to access an airspace restriction, by an airspace user whose presence will not negatively impact aviation safety, should be accommodated in a timely manner.
It is up to individual sponsors how they go about processing a permission request to operate within an FRZ. This could be as simple as a telephone call or could require the use of a specified online platform. Some pieces of airspace, such as the central London restricted areas, require multiple permissions from different agencies.
The sponsor must specify how a UAS operator should go about requesting permission to access an airspace restriction and then promulgate this through the AIP and any other suitable means, such as a website. The use of VHF Radio Telephony (RT) should not be required for UAS to obtain access to an FRZ.
The following questions should be considered:
Figure 1- Airspace access request considerations
The entity responsible for issuing a permission to operate within an airspace restriction must properly consider every request for access on its own merit.
Sponsors may only give permission for airspace access, and must not give permission for the UAS operation itself, which will require a CAA authorisation if outside the Open Category limitations (summarised in CAP 2012).
Sponsors must be clear when issuing a permission to enter airspace, what the scope of that permission is, and that other permissions may also be required (either from the CAA, or from other sponsors).
Policies employed by sponsors to disproportionately limit access to an airspace restriction, such as the ones listed below are not appropriate in many circumstances:
Blanket ban on UAS activity (or manned aviation) without justification;
Charging a fee for access to airspace;
Refusal to engage with permission requests;
Lengthy delay in replying to a request
The CAA may reconsider the suitability of the airspace restriction if it is not satisfied that the airspace is being used in a fair or equitable manner
Note: Airspace Access Complaints: An airspace user may report issues with access to an airspace restriction to the CAA. Such a report may be made to the CAA General Aviation and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Unit here. The CAA will assess every complaint, and if required, investigate further.
When deemed necessary, the CAA may request additional information from the airspace Sponsor in question, and whilst the CAA is not likely to directly challenge an airspace access decision made by the Sponsor, the CAA will, where necessary, discuss UAS access policy with the Sponsor and provide advice and guidance if appropriate.
The establishment of an airspace restriction means that the sponsor is responsible for managing it, and not that the sponsor ‘owns’ it; airspace is a State asset. There should be no reason for a Sponsor to charge for access to airspace for UAS. Whilst some burden of work may exist in processing applications for UAS access to airspace, it is envisaged that this will not require an undue burden on the Sponsor and should incur negligible time or cost.
Any such cost should not be passed on to UAS operators, or manned aviation operators – in the case of an airspace restriction which facilitates UAS flight by restricting manned aviation.
There may be instances where an airspace restriction overlaps or falls within other airspace. In such cases, the sponsor should engage with the sponsor of the other airspace reservation. This may involve a letter of agreement or other such arrangement, in order to coordinate the issuing of permissions between the two sponsors. Both parties should engage with each other as necessary and draw up any necessary agreement. Guidance may be sought in this regard from the CAA, either from the UAS Unit, allocated aerodrome inspectors (in the case of FRZs), or Airspace Regulation. Such arrangements should be considered as forming part of the ACP.
In the event that the sponsors don’t agree on a suitable arrangement, any UAS operator wishing to operate within the overlapping portion of airspace must meet all the requirements of each piece of airspace, for example, in the case of overlapping FRZs they must obtain separate permission from each aerodrome.
Once an airspace restriction is established and published within the AIP, it becomes aeronautical data, and there are certain responsibilities which must be discharged by those responsible for it. The person responsible for the data will be identified as part of the application process for the airspace restriction. This role involves ensuring that the AIP data is up to date, and that any necessary changes are made. For example, there may be a telephone number published in ENR 5.1, to obtain permission to operate within the restriction– this number must be updated if it changes.
The sponsor must recognise instances where changes to other aeronautical data (which are updated in the AIP) may affect the airspace restriction. Any proposal to change the dimensions of the airspace (either lateral or vertical dimensions), must be made by an ACP.
Proposed Updates to the AIP should be made directly by the sponsor to the AIS online portal, which will be subject to approval, via an account which will be set up as part of the airspace restriction establishing process.
The following responsibilities lie with the sponsor:
Origination of the data for the airspace restriction
Remarks, coordinates, description, access arrangements and surveying any points that may be required
Consultation, if required, as part of the ACP process
Keeping data up to date
Responding to access requests in a timely manner
Activating and de-activating the area by NOTAM, if required
This chapter contains additional specific guidance for airspace sponsors, and those who may wish to become a sponsor.
Designated UAS Flying Sites are published in the UK AIP- Section En-Route 5.5 (ENR 5.5) Aerial Sporting and Recreational Activities, but such sites are not within the scope of this document and are not classified as airspace restriction, because they do not restrict or facilitate UAS operations. The following details are provided for information only
Unmanned aircraft flying sites published in the UK AIP, ENR 5.5 are defined as a point, and not a volume of airspace, from the surface up to a ceiling altitude as an air navigation warning to other airspace users. This is similar to glider and microlight sites. This information is provided for manned aviation to be aware of, and de-conflict if necessary.
These areas are selected based on a number of criteria, including the level of activity at the site.
Unmanned aircraft clubs e.g. Model Aircraft clubs may approach their respective association and make a joint decision on whether the club is an appropriate candidate for inclusion within the UK AIP, and this should then be presented to the CAA for consideration in accordance with the details contained in CAP1618 Airspace Design. UAS flying sites will only be included in the UK AIP where UAS regularly fly above 400ft, in accordance with an appropriate authorisation from the CAA.
This section provides additional guidance for aerodromes and space sites..
Articles 94BA of the ANO sets out Flight Restriction Zones (FRZs) around all protected space sites.
3 CAP1618: Airspace Design should be read in conjunction with CAP1616 Airspace Change
A protected space site means —
a spaceport, as defined by section 3(2) of the Space Industry Act 2018, or
an installation at sea, at which controlled and planned landings of spacecraft take place or are to take place, which can be moved from place to place without major dismantling or modification,
which is not a certified aerodrome, a Government aerodrome or a national licensed aerodrome;
The “flight restriction zone of a protected space site” consists of the airspace extending from the surface to a height of 2,000 feet above the level of the protected space site within the area bounded by a circle centred on the mid-point of the launch pad that has the largest area and which has a radius of five kilometres.
Permission for a UAS flight within a Space Site FRZ must be obtained from the operator of the protected space site.
Articles 94A and 94B of the ANO set out Flight Restriction Zones (FRZs) around all protected aerodromes in the UK. Protected aerodromes are defined in article 94B as:
Certified aerodromes; or
UK Licenced aerodromes; or
Government aerodromes; or
Any aerodrome that is prescribed for the purpose of this definition
The description of the FRZ is set out in ANO article 94A and 94B, and summarised in CAP 722.
Permission must be obtained from an aerodrome air traffic control unit, flight information service unit or aerodrome operator before the operation of any UAS within the FRZ may take place. Full details of the permission requirements, and notification requirements, can be found in AIP section ENR 1.1 (4.1.8).
The coordinates of each aerodrome FRZ and other related information will be published in the UK AIP, Section ENR 5.1. All individual aerodromes are responsible for maintaining their published FRZ data which must, where applicable, adhere to Aeronautical Data Quality Implementing Regulations (ADQ IR). Aerodromes should refer to CAP1054 Aeronautical Data Quality for guidance on the provision and maintenance of aeronautical data and aeronautical information in the UK AIP, including the provision of FRZ data.
Note: Operators of aerodromes and heliports which are out of scope of ADQ IR requirements should use the guidance contained in CAP1054 as best practice on a proportionate basis when processing FRZ, and other, aeronautical information and data.
Where applicable, reference should also be made to CAA Policy Statement – Aeronautical Data associated with Airspace Design (CAP1616).
The responsibility for the safety of the UAS operation is placed on the remote pilot, and the UAS operator. The responsibility of an aerodrome ATSU, aerodrome operator or Space site operator has not changed, since the FRZ was first introduced. The remote pilot remains responsible for remaining in compliance with whatever conditions are set out as part of the permission to operate within the FRZ. These conditions may be, for example, geographical and /or height based.
Before issuing a permission to operate within an FRZ, aerodromes and space sites are encouraged to ensure that the operator is in possession of a valid Operator ID, and that the remote pilot is in possession of suitable pilot competence. Further guidance on these requirements, and enforcement, can be found in CAP 1974. A number of levels of pilot competence are recognised, these are set out in CAP 722. Aerodromes and space sites may stipulate that certain levels of competence are required for certain operations, for example, operating within the boundary of the aerodrome.
Any UAS operation above 400ft requires a CAA Operational Authorisation, and within an FRZ, requires additional permission from the ATC/AFIS, aerodrome operator or space site operator as applicable.
Aerodromes and space sites may establish standing agreements with UAS operators if this is appropriate, which would not require individual permissions to be issued for each operation. This may be the case for local UAS flying groups or model aircraft clubs, located within the FRZ.
Aerodromes should be familiar with the published requirements for operations within an FRZ, as published in AIP section ENR 1.1 (4.1.8), including NOTAM requirements in certain portions of the FRZ.
An aerodrome that does not fall into the definition of a protected aerodrome above may still obtain an FRZ. The options for this are:
Become a Protected Aerodrome – Obtain an FRZ:
Be prescribed under article 94A(6)(d): An aerodrome may approach the Department for Transport (DfT) and request that they are prescribed for the purpose of establishing an FRZ around their aerodrome. Whilst this is not something the CAA can carry out, the CAA can offer advice where necessary. In the first instance, contact with DfT can be made here, marked FAO: DfT Drone Team.
Become Certified or Licenced: An aerodrome may wish to consider becoming
Licenced or Certified, if the risk identified to their operation is sufficiently high.
Note: If a new FRZ is established, the aerodrome will be responsible for originating the FRZ data and subsequently will be responsible for maintaining the FRZ data published in the UK AIP. For further details see 4.2 above.
Apply for an Airspace Restriction (see Section 2):
Apply for an Airspace Restriction (UAS Geographical Zone): An aerodrome may apply for an airspace restriction to be established, using the principles in Section 2 with a focus on aviation safety, and possibly aerodrome security. This will be considered in the same way as any other UAS Geographical Zone and promulgated in the same way. The type of UAS Geographical Zone will most likely be a Restricted Area, applicable to UAS only.
Any restriction on the operation of UAS whilst airborne should be carried out using an airspace restriction, as summarised in this document, and set out in those documents referenced throughout. The establishment of an airspace restriction means that the sponsor is responsible for managing it, and not that the sponsor ‘owns’ it; airspace is a state asset. Local authorities, like any landowner, may usually only impose restrictions on the taking off or landing of UAS from their land, usually through byelaws.
The regulations for UAS operations are contained within UK Regulation (EU) 2019/947, and the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which is the primary document for all aviation legislation within the UK. The CAA can only provide information on aviation policy and regulation, and not on those established by other sectors.
UAS operators must fully consider any other applicable restrictions and legitimate interests of other statutory bodies such as Local Authorities, many of which have established local byelaws. These byelaws often restrict the take-off/landing of UAS from council land. Such a restriction, on its own, is not an airspace restriction.
It is important to distinguish between the permission required to operate from council land and the permission required to operate in certain portions of airspace. Should a UAS operator be given permission by a council to operate on their land this does not necessarily mean that they have permission to fly. UAS operators and remote pilots must be aware of all the restrictions that may affect their flight and to seek all necessary authorisations prior to commencing operations. A permission from a Local Authority in
accordance with a Byelaw may be just one of many permissions needed, such as a permission to fly within an FRZ, or an authorisation to fly within the Specific category.
Whilst byelaws may exist which protect council land, and those using it, these are not airspace restrictions and the management of this airspace is only possible following establishment of an appropriate airspace structure, in accordance with the documents referenced throughout CAP 722C; the airspace remains a state asset and is managed by the sponsor. As such, the details of these Byelaws will not be promulgated as airspace restrictions within the AIP and will therefore not be displayed on online charts or apps. If Councils deem an airspace restriction is required in addition to any Byelaws, then they should follow the guidance within this document and the relevant referenced documents.
When issuing a permission in accordance with a Byelaw for a UAS operation to be conducted from council land, Local Authorities must be clear that this is does not constitute a permission to operate in the airspace above their land, and that other authorisations from other agencies, including the CAA, may also be needed.
The CAA is aware of applications and websites that provide users with interactive maps visualising airspace restrictions with data sourced from the UK AIP and AIS website, and supports any measure to improve UAS safety. However, the CAA cannot currently endorse individual products.
The CAA encourages best practice when developing applications including:
Clear and accurate visualisation of relevant airspace with textual description. Airspace which is not applicable to the operation of UAS should not be displayed as such.
The use of a comprehensive and reliably up-to-date airspace database from an approved aeronautical information management source (to ensure timely inclusion of airspace changes and temporary restrictions or hazards).
Inclusion of UK UAS regulations (as summarised within the Dronecode)
Users are reminded that full responsibility for safe operation remains with the UAS operator and remote pilot, and it is up to them to assure themselves of the accuracy of the data that is being used, and to comply with all UK UAS rules and regulations.