Saturday , May 18 2024
Home / Aspects Of Dartmoor / Droning on Dartmoor

Droning on Dartmoor



Since Christmas I have received several messages or email like this one; “Dear Legendary Dartmoor, I would like to film some aerial footage of Dartmoor with my drone and was wondering if there are any restrictions laid down by the National Park Authority as to where I could or couldn’t fly it?” The noticeable increase of such questions may well be due to the fact that the price of a drone has dropped considerably and some people had been given them as Christmas presents?

Many of the Dartmoor related social media sites are including posts regarding drones on Dartmoor. Quite often they develop into fairly heated discussions between folk who regard them as an invasion into the peace and quiet of the moor and the pilots of drones who say they are overstating the intrusion. I can see certain situations where a drone could be useful, for instance if anybody had tried getting a detailed photograph of the Grey Wethers they will know that due to the size of the circles it’s nigh on impossible with a normal lens. Whereas a photographic drone could easily get an aerial image which shows both circles in great detail. However, on the other hand, it can be really irritating when visiting the Moor in order to enjoy the peace and quite to have a drone buzzing around overhead like a swarm of demented bees.

As with any recreational activity there is always a small minority who act irresponsibly and then spoil things for the majority who abide by the set guidelines. In the case of drones there have been instances where people and livestock have actually been ‘buzzed’ by drones. Clearly this can be dangerous to both man and beast not to mention stressful and so such acts have resulted in strict guidelines being implemented. So due to the increased use of drones on Dartmoor the National Park Authority have clarified the situation. Basically drones are classified as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and their usage falls into two categories; recreational use and commercial use. Recreational users would basically be ‘Joe Public’ who for whatever reason fly their drones for personal enjoyment which has no monetary gain. Commercial users would be people who use their drones for the purposes of filming for profit.


So to answer the question where and when can I fly a drone within the Dartmoor National Park? The answer is quite simple – “The use of drones is not permitted on any Access Land within Dartmoor National Park without prior authorisation from the National Park Authority.” Further to this it will be hard to get such authorisation for recreational use as a bye-law states; “No person shall release any power-driven model aircraft for flight or control the flight of such an aircraft on or over the access land unless he is authorised to do so by the Authority.”  The bye-law classifies ‘power driven’ as being; “driven by the combustion of petrol vapour or other combustible vapour or other combustible substances or by one or more electric motors.” Therefore drones are considered as being power driven aircraft.

Should anybody wish to fly a drone on access land within the National Park for commercial filming purposes then again there are set guidelines to adhere to. Firstly the drone operator must hold the appropriate licenses. Secondly they must hold public liability insurance and thirdly they must submit a detailed flight plan. Having complied with the above the Dartmoor National Park Authority will then consider authorisation on an individual case basis.

All of the previous restriction apply to access land within the National Park but some land within the park is under private ownership over which the authority have little jurisdiction. Should anyone wish to fly a drone over such land then the owner’s permission must be sought beforehand.

Regardless where a pilot flies a drone there are also a set of rules which the The Civil Aviation Authority have also issued, these are:

An unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided “line of sight” of the person operating it – this is generally measured as 500m (1,640ft)horizontally or 400ft (122m) vertically
An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50m (164ft) distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure
An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must not be flown within 150m (492ft) of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert
For commercial purposes, operators must have permission to fly a drone from the Civil Aviation Authority.

In addition to the above guidelines and restrictions the Civil Aviation Authority also has a code which goes under the acronym of D.R.O.N.E. which basically simplifies their rules and is follows;

D – Don’t fly your drone near airports or airfields.
R – Remember to stay below 400 ft. (120 m.)
O – Observe your drone at all times – stay 150 ft. (50 m.) away from people or property.
N – Never fly near aircraft.
E – Enjoy responsibly.
S – They seem to have forgotten this – stay at least 492 ft. (150m) away from a congested area or large group of people.

To assist drone users the Civil Aviation Authority recommend the free Drone Assist app. which is the new drone safety app from NATS, the UK’s main air traffic control provider, powered by Altitude Angel. It presents users with an interactive map of airspace used by commercial air traffic so that one can see areas to avoid or in which extreme caution should be exercised, as well as ground hazards that may pose safety, security or privacy risks when out flying a drone.

Drone Assist App

There recently was a report of someone irresponsibly flying a drone near Watern Tor so what could have been done about it? I would suggest it would have been pointless asking the pilot if they had the proper authorisation. They could simply say yes and how could this be confirmed? There could well be a case for the National Park Authority issuing proof of authorisation which must be carried when on the moor. This could even be an opportunity to raise some much needed funding if a small charge was implemented just the way anglers have to buy a fishing licence. But at present the only sensible option would be to make a call (providing there is a mobile signal) to one of the visitor centres who may possibly be able to send a ranger out? It is worth noting that the Civil Aviation Authority will not take any action against a non-commercial pilot, their advice is to contact the police.

Finally a rather tongue-in-cheek comment, recently an inmate in  Dartmoor prison was charged with smuggling contraband items into the prison by using a drone. As the prison is on private land did the drone pilot first get the permission of the landowner – HRH The Prince of Wales?

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor


  1. I agree too many drones would spoil the tranquility of Dartmoor.

    But in restricted numbers it would be fine – and a license – as with fishing would be a way the park could make money.

    Also realistically you say people could call a rangers to intercept the drone flyer. But they may be flying in a remote location that short of using a helicopter, would be very time consuming to get to.

    5 hours later when the ranger arrives the drone is long gone!

    • Drones are a pain if you are on Dartmoor to enjoy the tranquility of a open spaces. I told someone it was illegal to fly drones on Dartmoor..he was right in the middle of a footpath. He said he didn’t know, I didn’t hang around to see whether it came down or not..

  2. It is a shame to see a blanket ban over such a large area for this activity & I would like to see a better thought out approach to allow more enjoyment of this beautiful area for all. Most popular quadcopter craft are much quieter than other noise sources in the area, especially when flown at higher altitudes, and are only in the air for short periods of time due to battery constraints. All commercially bought craft equipped with cameras also have very wide lenses that do not invade privacy unless extremely close. When flown lawfully and with respect, they should not pose any problems to people, livestock, or the land itself and can provide many benefits including fantastic photography available to all, unique views of the area’s geology, and a boost to the tourist trade.
    How about a common-sense set of rules tailored to people’s feedback? ie: 1. No hovering near people, 2. Stay clear of livestock (assuming there have actually been real problems), and 3. Designated areas only.
    Until rules are brought up to date for this new, safe, and popular activity I would like to see local landowners cashing in and provide take-off and landing sites so that we can enjoy the area from a new perspective, as the airspace itself (aside from the prison) is not under control of the park authorities.
    We’re in a situation where rules are being discussed on a nationwide level and a very high percentage of UAV flight conflicts reported by the media simply have been found to have been mis-reported. A common-sense, intelligent discussion is what is needed. Dog owners know to respect livestock and dogs are not banned, UAV enthusiasts (who have a great deal more to think about to fly safely) should be treated with the same respect.

    • Hi Bob,
      great comment, thanks for bringing some kind of sanity to this subject, the over-reaction to and demonization of drone flyers is getting out of hand. All of the livestock worrying has been by dogs off the lead and extremely noisey military aircraft but I don’t see them banning either. There is no common sense in punishing the 99% of responsible drone pilots for the sake of the 1% of idiots. Unfortunaely officials and bissybodies who’s only solution to a problem is to ban everything don’t have any common sense. Lets hope that common sense and a little tolerance will prevail in this case.

    • I believe this is a good approach, an eye on numbers at any one time might be a good idea too so a fee with a online booking form might be good. It wouldn’t be onerous to setup online and raise funds. Devon born and living in Exeter i’m lucky to be able to vidit Dartmoor regularly both as a keen landscape photographer and just to engage with its beauty, there’s nothing I don’t like about being on Dartmoor in all weathers, I do cringe when I see burnt ground fire pits and litter. tho. To be able to take some landscape images from different perspectives would be great. I’m intending to attempt a RPS Didtinction level qualification soon and would love to theme.Dartmoor from many angles to tell the story, guess i’ll have to settle from the traditional methods, she’s still amazing at low level!

  3. Darren Vertessy

    Unfortunately there has been no change. I have a drone and fly it very sensibly. I emailed Dartmoor communications to ask if permission was required and how I go about getting such.
    I have received a reply as follows from the National Park Communications Officer….

    To fly on Dartmoor you must be a professional aviator who holds a commercial drone licence, liability insurance.
    You must then ask for permission, which may not be granted, to fly.
    Personal use flights are not permitted on any part of Dartmoor.
    You would be permitted to fly for the inspection of buildings, trees etc but this falls under professional aviator status and therefore bans personal flights.

    I think this should be challenged but do not know how to go about this. Any suggestions.
    Responsible pilots are losing out on this area of natural beauty from the air.

  4. The most intrusive sounds on Dartmoor are the sounds of cars, chainsaws, overhead jet aircraft. Moden drones even at modest height are almost silent. Yes, there are some inconsiderate pilots just as there are inconsiderate drivers, but most pilots only want to get a few unique pictures and flights last just a matter of minutes or seconds. The law is starting to address inconsiderate pilots in the same way as they have addressed inconsiderate drivers but, like drivers, the problem will probably not go away and we will all have to learn to live with it. Even Dartmoor National Park.

  5. I would point out thet NATS Drone Assist does not indicate that Dartmoor National Park is a restricted area. It only advises that drone operators should stick to the Drone Code when flying there. Also, the DJI Fly Safe map that specifies geofencing areas classifies Dartmoor as a low warning zone but gives no detail other than to take extra care when flying and allows the pilot to ‘unlock’ the zone once the warning has been delivered. Only red zones disallow flying. Dartmoor is a ‘national’ park after all and notionally free for everybody to use. I would suggest that the type of restrictions that have been discussed here are virtually impossible to police and the park authority, whoever they are needs to think again.

  6. I have recently purchased a drone for use as a camera base.
    Prior to getting this drone I would never have believed the not only negative attitudes but downright abusive behaviour of entitled knowitalls.
    It’s hard to stay within the law when at first you know.
    Finding spots to fly above beautiful landscapes is made harder by this type of blanket ban by park management who don’t give these type of park user a fair deal.
    Bad behaviour should be dealt with by laws not restrictions they have dealt out here.
    Failure to find compromise I am sure will find users breaking the bye law and flying anyway and that would upset a lot more than the park authorities posting savage rules to appease the few upset at some short term alternative usage of the moor.
    Surely a compromise acceptable to responsible drone users is the better way to go.
    At no time do I encourage illegally behaviour, especially while flying a remote aircraft.

  7. Just bought a drone for personal video use to try get some decent photos and videos of our landscape and just seen this post and am unhappy Dartmoor is a Massive open clear area and to me is a perfect and safe place to use a drone to get some awesome vids and pics Don’t know how a drone can scare the animals when you have to be so far up in the air anyway if anything bikes and boy racers with the loud exhaust scare the animals more then a drone would , yes if someone was using a drone badly ect over the moors then yes that’s a problem but why ruin it for everyone eles to enjoy

    • Interesting to have found this Below
      As the max flying height is 400 ft it looks as though they can stop you flying. Although I agree we don’t want too many of these things flying a licence would provide revenue and allow the more serious pilots to obtain some special photography

      Air property refers to the airspace above a property. In most instances, if you own the land the property is built on (i.e. you are the freeholder), you also own some of the airspace above the building. This doesn’t mean you own limitless airspace, however. In the UK, airspace is divided into two types – the lower stratum and the higher stratum.

      The lower stratum is the space immediately above and around your property. There is no exact measurement for this space, but if activity in the area is likely to affect your reasonable enjoyment of your land and property then intruders can be prevented from entering it. For example, if an aircraft flies too low and the sound is likely to affect your day-to-day wellbeing, then it would be considered an infringement of your air rights.

      The upper stratum is the height above which intrusion is unlikely to affect reasonable enjoyment of your property. Apart from in Scotland, your air property does not extend endlessly into the sky. The upper stratum in the rest of the UK is generally considered to be approximately 500 to 1000 feet above your property, according to Section 76 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.

  8. We already know what the landscape looks like so people don’t need to get a drone and take yet another photo of it. Doing that isn’t really that useful so what’s the point? It’s immaterial that flight times are short because an increase in take-up will obviously result in a continuum as successive aircraft take off and land. I have experienced wildlife being flushed by the sudden sound of a drone. This can give away the locations of nest sites and can flush birds into the path of predators. I consider the close proximity of drones over my land to be a violation of my privacy. A woodsman using a chainsaw to clear storm damage to get the roads open for you invaders does not have the same potential to be spying on somebody sunbathing naked in the otherwise secluded part of the garden.

    Dartmoor doesn’t need any more human-derived ways to be disturbed. Drone users should respect the ancient, the sacred and the beautiful. Leave it to be. People really need to take a look at themselves and question what is so lacking in their lives that they really need to do this. Can they counter those same social deficiencies by just immersing themselves in the awe in a different, less confrontational way?

    If drone pilots insist on persisting with this selfish activity then I propose a levelling free-for-all where their presence implies presumed consent to become “live” targets for some air rifle practice. Oh and the damaged equipment is naturally forfeited and non-returnable.

    • How is it acceptable for farmers to drive across the remote parts of Dartmoor in their noisy petrol powered quad bikes and yet responsible drone operators aren’t able to fly even sub 250g drones at altitude of 120m for 5 minutes to take some unique landscape photographs? There’s far more noise disturbance caused by farmers, the MOD, car drivers, motorcyclists, barking dogs and general footfall of visitors. A more pragmatic approach would be to permit the sub-250g class drones as they are much less intrusive and you can’t hear them above 50m or so. Unfortunately the busybodies who advocate blanket restrictions don’t really understand the technology and would rather have them banned completely than offer sensible compromises. The vast majority of drone users are landscape photographers who have great respect and appreciation for the environment in which they operate.

  9. You can fly a drone over Dartmoor national park, just not from it. As long as you land and take off from outside the park you are fine.
    Also a sub 250g drone, a C0 class doesn’t have to stay 50 Metres from buildings, you could fly over any city as long as it is not a prohibited area due to a prison, airport, military base etc.
    Happy Flying

    • Pete Scott – The byelaw states “No person shall release any power-driven model aircraft for flight or control the flight of such an aircraft on or over the access land unless he is authorised to do so by the Authority.”
      Launching off the park then flying over it is still a violation of the byelaw. You will be controlling the flight over access land.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.