The current CAA webpage relating to kite flight in the UK

edited August 3 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 3,-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 3
    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 11
    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 4
    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 4
    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 8
    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 8
    The incident is covered here: the Mail headline is something of an over
  • edited August 8
    Bill, We managed to post links to articles at the same time ;o)
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