The current CAA webpage relating to kite flight in the UK

edited August 2017 in General,-events-and-activities/Kites/
'A kite flying at a height exceeding 60 metres above ground level should have either:
tubular streamers attached to the string which are:
not less than 40 centimetres in diameter and 2 metres in length, marked with alternate bands of red and white which are 50 centimetres wide, at intervals of not more than 200 metres measured from the lowest part of the kite;
or streamers not less than 80 centimetres long and 30 centimetres wide at their widest point, marked with alternate bands of red and white which are 10 centimetres wide, at intervals of not more than 100 metres measured from the lowest part of the kite'

How many of the KAPers known to us on this forum have had input into the UK's CAA kite regulations? Drones are strongly represented by commercial concerns ( is representing us? Members of kite clubs? Academics? The last name that I was given was a university academic, but that was years ago. I have asked the CAA more recently, on several occasions, for who is currently giving input, but with no response.

For unplanned flights in the UK, drones are allowed to fly twice as high as kites! It has been reported that in the last year police recorded 3,456 incidents involving drones. So, why has the height limit for drones been so lenient compared with kites? In terms of the regulations, it is simply that drones, unlike kites, are 'controlled' aircraft.


  • I think we've had this conversation before, John.

    While it would be nice if the kite height limit were raised, it would be disastrous if the price was that kites were, like drones, treated as "small unmanned surveillance aircraft". If they were almost all the KAP I do would become illegal - no flying within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or structure not owned by the 'pilot' and no flying within 150 metres of a congested area or large group of people. The definition of a 'congested area' includes sports fields and public parks by the way. I haven't flown my DJI Phantom for 2 years because there's nowhere I can fly it to take interesting photos (even Dartmoor is out of bounds!.

    The current UK rules for drones are being harmonised with those in Europe and the UK's model aircraft organisation (the BMFA) has been instrumental in trying to make sure the proposed new rules allow model aircraft to continue to be flown as they have for many years (see here for more about the original somewhat draconian European rules and why the BMFA regards them as unacceptable).

    As long as we are outside the net we will be fine - but asking for representation in drafting the rules might put us inside the net - not somewhere I want to be!

  • edited August 2017,-events-and-activities/Kites/

    Hi Dave,
    It is not about asking permission to draft the rules. It is about knowing the people who are, so that representation can be made, especially if things go belly up. This is a real possibility as I have mentioned before.
    You make the point yourself. Model aircraft fliers are represented by the BMFA, but which individuals represent kite aerial photographers? I would like to know. They do, or did, actually exist!

    With the proposed UK drone regulations many more drones will be becoming redundant, especially those over 250g in weight.

    As I mentioned recently, applied drone fliers are moving across to using kites because of the simpler rules. We will not be able to stay 'under the radar and out of trouble' for ever.

    The National Trust is still the most friendly towards kites but has banned drones unless special permission has been sought. Usually, with such organisations, special permission relates to commercial flights.

    As much of my flying is now unplanned, especially with thermography, I have to fly within 60m. I am beginning to think that I may eventually have to move across to using a drone for thermal imaging, depending on the final rules for pre-flight planning for drones under 250g.
  • There clearly need to be rules to control the use of machines flying through public airspace. However, the fools who draw up overly-restrictive regulations which make it illegal for Dave even to fly over the wide open spaces of Dartmoor seem to overlook the most important factor: those who wish to use drones for terrorist or other criminal activities are hardly likely to worry about breaking the law! Privacy is something we have almost lost these days, drones or no drones, so safety should be the major factor of importance in drawing up the rules. This can surely be achieved without making it impossible for recreational fliers to enjoy their hobby.
  • edited August 2017
    When someone, or a committee, in an organisation is given the responsibility for some aspect of safety, they will always err on the side of caution, even to an extreme, if only to protect themselves. If there is no persuasive argument to do otherwise, or any perceived advantage to them, nothing will change. Formally granting permission to fly also leaves an organisation open to liability. I have had long talks with some of those involved.

    Falkirk Council, to avoid any liability when we spent a weekend doing a geophysical survey in one of their 'parks', formally leased the land to us. The public still had the right of access and we had the liability.

    However, it is no coincidence that it is not the health and safety teams who give permission to fly on most national heritage sites. It is the commercial filming/media teams. It is usually about filming rights, copyright and money.

    Similarly, commercial drone organisations have had input into the new drone regulations. I am sure that they would now like to limit the use of drones, as competition between organisations and individuals is growing. I suspect that the market is near saturation.
  • I understand your concerns John, but I'm not sure you understand mine. At present it's pretty simple to apply to the CAA and get permission to fly above 60m. True it's for a specific site, but you can ask for permission for a period of 6 months (I've done that twice for 500' above Totnes). The reason it's so simple and permission is readily granted unless there are airports nearby is because the question of aerial surveillance doesn't come into it - it's purely about the safety of other aircraft. And that's because kites (and balloons) are specifically excluded from the "small unmanned aircraft" rules. Which is strange (but fortunate for us) given that from a security, privacy and safety point of view a 750gm KAP rig flying at 60m is not very different from a 750gm drone doing the same.

    My fear is that if there was an official lobby of kite fliers asking the CAA to raise the kite ceiling and the use of aerial cameras were one of the main motivations then I think the CAA would possibly reconsider that exclusion rule. They may already be aware of KAP but clearly don't regard it as mainstream or important and I'd like to keep it that way.
  • edited August 2017
    Hi Dave,

    I do understand your concerns and they are well founded. I am more concerned about potential new kite rules than the 60m limit, with lobbyists from the commercial drone community having more sway.

    As you say, it is the small number of KAPers that makes us less off a concern, combined with our relative safety record.
    The biggest threat, in relation to your concerns, is people like me who want to see an increase in the use of KAP, especially in schools. Kite aerial thermography also opens up a new area of commercialisation, which currently is much cheaper than with drones.

    Public Lab is significantly increasing the number of KAPers in the USA with offshoots in other countries, now including (though currently in a small way) the UK.

    Change is coming and it is likely to be led by the drone community.
    We may be no more than the 'wailful choir' of gnats in Ode to Autumn and appropriately 'borne aloft or sinking as the light wind lives or dies'.
  • You could be right John. So far KAP has had virtually no public accidents involving other people or their property, which has kept us under the radar and makes my "don't ask, don't tell" approach reasonable. But that may not work if you manage to create an upsurge in KAP in schools. It's not that children are necessarily more accident-prone than adults, but they are probably more likely to break the rules and fly where they shouldn't.
  • edited August 2017
    No problems with the kids in SNAPS, as they are supervised by teachers, have 60m lines and fly primarily within school grounds or on heritage sites. Both before and during the Scheme, Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), then before amalgamation, were very supportive.

    KAPer Jackie Sangster of SCRAN (based in the RCAHMS building) has taken KAP into schools and has written:
    'We believe exploring the aerial photography collections on Scran, in combination with the active learning involved in kite aerial photography, could lead to all sorts of creative learning.
    For example, studying aerial photography can support the following Curriculum for Excellence experiences & outcomes within Social Studies......etc'
    This reflects the experiences in Ireland.

    I am worried about any changes to regulations in relation to the time, effort and considerable expense that has gone into SNAPS. Support from heritage and educational organisations could be useful in the long-term.

    Photo by pupils from Linlithgow Bridge Primary School, West Lothian, Scotland:


    I should mention that the first drone that I bought was a Walkera MX400 some years back. I have webpages on aerial photography techniques for kids, but the section on drones has been empty for years. I am still looking at drones, as is my fellow trustee, Jim Knowles, and I have 3 small ones, one having arrived only this week. We have not used drones for our aerial photography.
    Our remit within the Trust is:
    'Promoting the use of kite aerial photography as a low-cost, inclusive, environmentally friendly technique for archaeological/heritage photography and promoting the use of any other techniques which may be deemed appropriate by the Trustees.'
  • At the risk of sounding generally non-compliant (which is honestly not the case), I think everyone should just exercise common sense when it comes to the insanely restrictive UK KAP rules.

    Do your homework in respect of the location you'd like to fly. There's a 300ft buffer between kites and aircraft. I don't think the CAA are going to give 2 sh**s if you go that little bit higher. Or even 100ft higher.

    People worry too much.
  • edited August 2017
    Going above 60m will invalidate any insurance cover.
    On some sites, we have had to provide proof of insurance cover, often up to £2,000,000 but £1,000,000 is usually acceptable.
  • It's dangerous out there ;-)
  • edited August 2017
    This was sent out to some kite clubs in the UK today:
    N.B. 'This will be updated in line with any changes to regulation.'

    'The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is committed to enabling the many people who enjoy recreational flying to do so safely, aware of their responsibilities and in control of the risks they are taking.
    Following the incident in Kent involving a kite and helicopter earlier in the year, we have taken steps to increase the visibility of our regulations and guidance relating to kite flying. We have created a dedicated web page containing key regulations, guidance on the permission process for flight above 60 metres and the permission form:,-events-and-activities/Kites/. This will be updated in line with any changes to regulation.
    Anyone looking to fly a kite at significance heights in the UK should ensure that they comply with important safety rules. These rules are in place to ensure their safety and that of any aircraft flying in the vicinity. The key points to be aware of, which are explained on our website, are:
    • Anyone flying a kite at heights greater than 60 metres above the surface requires permission from the CAA
    o When flying within an Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ), permission is required from the CAA regardless of the height flown.
    • The kite string/cable needs to be clearly visible through the use of lighting, markers or streamers
    • Where permission has been granted for kite flyers to operate at heights greater than 300 feet (91.4 metres) above the surface, the CAA will also issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to forewarn other airspace users of the potential hazard.
    If you have previously submitted a permission request, I will be in touch shortly once the permission has been processed. Thank you for your flight safety concerns in letting us know.'
    'In one incident, a razor-sharp cord is believed to have become wrapped around a helicopter flying at between 1,000ft and 1,500ft over Kent. Another involved a kite that collided with a light aircraft at 720ft over Morecambe Bay, causing minor damage to the plane’s left wing.'
  • edited August 2017
    The incident is covered here: the Mail headline is something of an over
  • edited August 2017
    Bill, We managed to post links to articles at the same time ;o)
  • I have read this series of posts with interest. Dave Mitchell has it spot on here - this is a boat not generally worth rocking.

    The new guidelines are actually nothing new as another poster has pointed out. The rules were always there and they have not changed. What as changed is that for aviation in general the Standard European Rules of the Air have been introduced and CAA have transferred most of their rules to that set and retained relatively few of their own. In that process the rules relating to marking kite lines have been dropped, hence the new guidelines and the fact that the rules will be re-iterated in any CAA permission to fly over 60m.

    For most kite fliers, 60m is not a problem - even at kite festivals in my experience the number of flyers above 200' is relatively few even where a permission is in force. I can see that it could be a challenge for KAPers but as Dave says, getting the permission is straightforward and seldom declined.

    Turning to the differences, there is no conspiracy here, just an accident of history. The Air Navigation Order and its associated Rules have evolved as aviation has evolved. When the limit was set at 400' for 'small unmanned aircraft' all anyone had to go on was radio controlled aeroplanes. I suspect the CAA wish now it were lower but at the time it was fine. And in fairness to the aeromodellers why should they be penalised for idiots with expensive toys when most drone operators behave sensibly and within the rules.

    The British Kite Flying Association represents most kite clubs in the UK and we have been talking to the legal experts at CAA for many months. As a result we have produced a full analysis of The Air Navigation Order 2016, the associated Rules and Orders all as collected under CAP393. This analysis has been sent to our member clubs and a full version will be available on our website shortly. We are in the process of updating the website and moving the hosting so it might be a couple of weeks.

    In the meantime, if anyone would like to see the full version (which includes all the analysis) or the abridged version (which is still pretty long) I would be delighted to send a copy direct.

    On the subject of suitable line markers Andrew Beatty is looking at getting some manufactured for retail sale - I will advise when they are ready.

    We will continue to work with the CAA for the benefit of all UK kitefliers: if there is a particular issue you would like raised please get in touch. I don't believe there is any benefit in changing or challenging the existing 60m height limit although we will continue to monitor developments closely to try and avoid a situation where kites get caught because of rule changes required because of drones.

    There are some other more specialist anomalies particularly with regard to significantly large kites (think Peter Lynn and Kuwaiti flags) that continue to exist and I will be raising these with CAA in the coming months.

    To close, the limit is 60m without permission. This is mandatory and must not be exceeded without a permission from the CAA in place.

    Jerry Swift
    Chairman, British Kite Flying Association
  • Jerry - many thanks for an informative and helpful post - Dave
  • edited August 2017
    Jerry - Thank you very much for this posting, especially for the information that the drone height limit was simply adopted from the existing rules which apply to model aircraft. This reveals a degree of inertia which is not necessarily consistent with safety. A not uncommon phenomenon. A colleague and I raised questions in the literature about the international radiation dose limits for skin in the 1970s. Those who were involved with implementation of the limits in the UK were less than friendly but those who devised them considered our arguements and a large research programme followed which we managed.

    When I asked the person responsible for kite permissions a few years ago about the lower limit for kites, he passed me over to the person responsible for drones, who simply said that 'kites are not controlled aircraft' hence the lower limit, with no added information.

    I am surprised that the CAA was not willing to give me your details or say anything about your recent discussions.

    Is there still someone nominated to give informed advice on kite aerial photography as there was some years ago?
    Do you know the rationale for the 60m height limit? Understanding how it was derived would be helpful.

    'I don't believe there is any benefit in changing ....... the existing 60m height limit.'
    Kite aerial thermography, especially in opportunistic, archaeological prospection, is uniquely different to other forms of KAP and would benefit from a higher limit.
    Challenging the limit is something different.

  • Jerry, redirects to which fails to deliver.
  • Please feel free to email me at - while we get the other email address fixed which is proving troublesome!


    I think the 60m limit is also fairly arbitrary - its actually 200 feet but now expressed in a round number of meters - oh that CAA would introduce a single measurement solution, however it is worth noting all flight levels etc are actually a number of '000 of feet - so probably not much point in going fully metric.

    Where did 200' come from? Lost in the mists of time and I would be un-surprised if it was simply that in the early days of flying many light aircraft flew pretty low - before the theoretical floor of 500' was introduced and which of course does not apply to military aircraft in designated ares (and over my back garden on occasions - which isn't designated).

    For something as specific as kite aerial thermography in archaeological prospection, maybe the route to a higher limit is an aerial applications certificate for the activity (Article 91 of the ANO refers). I know that someone using kites to train raptors has used this clause to agree a process and there was one in place for parachuting teddy bears (!)

    I now have a current contact at CAA and he is expecting me to raise some issues with him - so anything you would like discussed please give me a shout. If you want a chat, then drop me a phone number - it is sometimes easier. Dave Mitchell also has my number.

    Best wishes
    Jerry Swift
  • Jerry,
    Great, will be in touch.
  • edited August 2017
    Readers may wonder why I claim 'Kite aerial thermography (KAT), especially in opportunistic, archaeological prospection, is uniquely different to other forms of KAP'.

    For archaeological work, height is not usually an issue. In fact, lower altitude stitched images can give better resolution.

    We are currently using a Flir One imager which is a £200 mobile phone add-on. It does not have a wide field of view, so height is an advantage.

    The imager divides up the temperature range within the field of view and ascribes colours from a chosen pallete. For maximum temperature differentiation, the pallete with the most colours (named 'Contast' in the menu) is chosen. If the temperature range is not too wide, the sensitivity can be down to 0.1 degree C.
    The imager is used as a video camera and as the field of view changes (even slightly) the calibration and ascribed colours change. An additional visible spectrum camera in the imager also overlays a low resolution wire frame-like outline on this colour-mapped temperature gradient. The imager is often best used at night, so there is no visible outline.

    For general KAT, like heat measurement loss from buildings, there is less of a problem. The calibration and therefore colours can be fixed and images theoretically stitched.
    Here is a typical daytime shot of an outdoor swimming pool and an indoor one in the building to the left:



    With archaeological features, when used at maximum sensitivity, etherial patterns transform, snapping in and out of recognition with recalibration. Fixing the calibration could mean totally missing features. For night shots especially, stitching images of changing shapes of changing colours/shades is not an far as I know. So height is an advantage.

    For visualising archaeological residues in the ground, we have to rely on variables like thermal inertia within the ground (storage heater effect), differential transpiration in vegetation (eg those plants over structures may have less access to water and may transpire less and therefore get hotter) and simply the differential drying out of ground after rainfall.....or any combination of these. Even the optimal time for flying after the 'simple' drying out of the ground is difficult to judge. Windows of opportunity are often narrow and can be few and far between.

    In practice, the process of flying the imager (with phone) on a selfie stick is one of the easiest techniques possible. Knowing when to fly is the difficult bit.

  • edited September 2017
    I have been corresponding and talking to Tom Gratton, Airspace Regulator (Utilisation). It looks as though things may be sorted in relation to the needs of KAT, both for day and night flights.
    To comply with the red and green ground light requirement for flying above 60m at night, I have these lights and for the line I have ordered these lights.
    The line lights may be bright enough for use as ground lights but I will see what they are like when they arrive.

    I was out night flying on Wednesday, but below 60m.

    UPDATE 6th September 2017
    Permission has now been finalised in relation to the needs of KAT for flights up to 120m over several counties.
  • edited November 2017
    Lights for night flights in the UK continued......

    The outdoor roof safety lights work well as ground lights, two red and one green.

    The small (pet collar) line lights are not good enough. The red light is bright enough on one side, so at least two have to be used together. Suspension on a short line permits rotation. I do not think that the white light (clear type) is bright enough. Others are on order for testing. Some bicycle lights may be better.

    I have not found a supplier for the regulation red and white tubular streamers for when flying above 60m in daylight.
  • edited November 2017
    Here is a light, durable piece of material that is close to the streamer requirement, but the band spacing is 16cm.
    Has anyone seen anything better?

    For thermal imaging at night, I will try hanging one of these 1mW green laser pointers on a tube near the camera suspension. I can then see where the camera is pointing in the dark. Something only for remote locations and a steady breeze.

    Handlebar lights work better than the pet collar lights but these still need to be flown back to back.
    Any other suggestions?
  • I looked at life jacket lights they are reasonably small and some are manually switched.
  • edited November 2017
    That was inspired Bill.
    The cheapest lights that I have found are here.
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