Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (Drones)

Using and operating uncrewed aircraft systems while at the University.

Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAV, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or Small Uncrewed Aircraft (SUA), commonly referred to as drones, are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the University strictly adheres to CAA laws and regulations. This page outlines the University arrangements and guidance for staff and students operating UAS in connection with the University.



Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or more commonly known as Drones, are an expanding area commercially and of interest in many areas of the University. Staff  may wish to use drones for a work activity such as surveying or capturing images, Students may want to use data obtained from drone flights in course work or assignment submissions or even construct and program their own drone. Drones are, however, potentially dangerous and there are clear data protection issues around drone data collection. Drones in the UK are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority and data collection is regulated by the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and the Data Protection Act.


Operation of UAS on University business or inconnection with the University, can only be undertaken by registered pilots with the appropriate qualifications for the UAS flown and operating the correct class of UAS for the operating environment. 


Under the UK’s new Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg, or any drone with a camera, will need to register as an operator and will need to take and pass an online education package. Both of these requirements became enforcable on the 30th November 2019.


The University strictly adheres to applicable laws, including guidelines published by the CAA.


Find out more about:

UAS Safety Statement

University of Portsmouth is committed to safety as the primary consideration whilst conducting Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) operations. The protection of employees, contractors and the general public is of paramount importance and as such, all operations will be conducted in a safe and responsible manner. University of Portsmouth embraces “just culture” and fosters an open, honest environment where employees are encouraged to voice any concerns over safety related issues so that they can be addressed immediately.

The operation of any UAS is carried out in accordance with, and abide by the requirements of the ANO2016 (as amended) and UAS Implementing Regulation 2019/947 (as retained in UK Law), the conditions of this Operations Manual, the relevant PDRA, insurance policy, and the Operational Authorisation issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). To ensure the safest operations are maintained, University of Portsmouth shall implement a safety ethos by:


  • Ensuring a safe working environment for all employees, contractors and the public;
  • Operate UAS in a safe and responsible manner, in accordance with the legislation and the conditions detailed in the Operational Authorisation;
  • Ensure that all personnel are suitably trained, current and competent to participate in operations;
  • Plan, assess and execute all operations in accordance with the procedures outlined within this Operations Manual;
  • Managing risk and implementing suitable mitigation where required;
  • Ensure personnel do not deviate from the procedures outlined within this Operations Manual unless acting in an emergency where the relevant Emergency Procedure must be followed;
  • Report any accident, serious incident, reportable occurrence or AIRPROX in a timely manner to the appropriate authority;
  • Conduct equipment maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation;
  • Keep up-to-date with changes in legislation by means of the CAA website and SkyWise platform, ensuring this document remains compliant at all times.


University of Portsmouth, as the UAS operator hereby confirms that the intended operation(s) as described herein will comply with any applicable rules relating to it, in particular, with regard to privacy, data protection, liability, insurance, security and environmental protection.


View a digital copy of:

Our UAS Safety Statement

UAS Operating Insurance

All UAS operations conducted on behalf of or in connection with the University must be appropriately insured whether you are a student or staff member. 



The British Model Flying Association offer civil liability insurance and personal accident insurance as part of their Membership. This covers training flights only. To be covered for data collection/testing of self-builds you will need to get the Data, Development and Demonstration Membership Extension.

We advise that you check the current Terms & Conditions before flying. There are many insurers that offer insurance products for drones and associated operations, make sure they cover the intended purpose of your operation and / or flights. The University will not check the insurance, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that activities are covered.



All UAS flights conducted under the University’s operations manual must be appropriately insured. The University holds the necessary insurance for flights which have been approved by the UAS (Drone) Safety Team. On approval of your flight plan by one of our UAS Safety Officers, the remote pilot will be provided with a copy of the insurance schedule which must be kept with the individual pilot during the operation and made accessible when flying.



We advise that you seek guidance from experienced drone pilots, especially if you are externally funded.



Msc and MRes students must follow the rules laid out for students. PhD candidates are classed as students for the purpose of drone flying unless approved by the Drone Team to operate as a staff member.

UAS Operations Outside the UK

Staff and Students must comply with the requirements of the country they wish to fly in. A starting point for this information can be found here and the country's aviation regulator can be consulted for further guidance. If the standards abroad are not as strict as the UK, advice can be sought from the University's UAS Safety Officers or one of the University’s trained drone pilots and the standards set out in the University Operations Manual, which must be followed. This should be referred to in the Risk Assessment. You will also need to consider ethics of the operation, a good guide to ethical considerations is included here.


Only registered remote pilots may operate UAS on University business. Staff planning to operate abroad must comply with local laws and regulations as well as the University UAS Arrangements and Guidance. Details of planned operations abroad and a risk assessment need to be sent to the University Insurance Officer and UAS Safety Officers in advance to obtain the necessary permissions and insurance cover.

UAS Operations inside the UK

UAS in the UK may be operated in the Open Category or the Specific Category. There are different training requirements for different operating categories, which is why the University only allows registered remote pilots to operate University owned and registered UAS on University business. All staff or Students registering as remote pilots will be invited to an internal training course and their qualifications will be checked before they can operate any UAS.

The University has an Operational Authorisation from the CAA to operate in the Specific Category, which is dependent on following our approved Operations Manual (OM).

Operating a UAS in either category requires remote pilots to follow the University Risk Assessment guidance and a robust risk assessment needs to be approved prior to operating a UAS.

Brent Schwarz

UAS Accountable Manager

T: 02392 843075

M: 07565201515




Martin Schaefer

Uncrewed Aerial Systems Safety Officer (Drones)

T: 02392 842494




Toby Meredith

Uncrewed Aerial Systems Safety Officer (Drones)

T: 02392 843089

M: 07876763848




Anita Randell

University Insurance Officer

T: 023 9284 3304

M: 07864 969619 




next steps...

The University of Portsmouth does not regulate private use of drones. It does, however, have a duty of care to make sure that you are acting legally and safely when flying in connection with work or studies. The University encourages safe operations of UAS for research, teaching, outreach activities and enhancing work activities. Operating a UAS on University business is regulated by the UAS Arrangement. Detailed operating requirements can be found in the UAS Guidance document. As such, staff and students may only submit drone derived data or fly self-built drones in connection with their work or studies under the following conditions:


  1. Have a relevant risk assessment (RA) approved by a competent member of staff. This is in addition to the normal departmental/school risk assessment processes for projects. Competent members of staff are the CAA trained pilots. You can email​ to find out more.
  2. Submit a RPAS ​declaration form​ with the risk assessment.
  3. Provide an Operator ID and Flyer ID from the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme.
  4. Label any drone or model aircraft they are responsible for with the Operator ID and Flyer ID.
  5. Demonstrate to the competent member of staff that they are competent in flying drones by providing either a: CAA certificate of competence for the class of drone being used or Other relevant qualification for the drone being used or Self-certification of appropriate experience of the drone being used.
  6. At all times comply with applicable law and be aware of the Drone Code.
  7. Declare that the proposed use does not constitute commercial operations according to CAA guidance.
  8. Declare that they have appropriate insurance.
  9. Declare they have permission from the land owner for take-off and landing.
  10.  Follow the best practices outlined in the University Operations Manual (OM) for drones. (Students are not covered by the UoP OM).
  11.  If there are any ethical issues, these must be considered and an application be made to the Departmental/Faculty Ethics Committee if appropriate, e.g. to comply with the law collection of images of identifiable individuals may be subject to data protection legislation
  12.  Notify the UAS Safety Team


Get in touch 


  1. Confirm that the person operating the drone accepts that they would be legally responsible for the safe conduct of each flight, that they understand the rules and that failure to comply could lead to prosecution.
  2. Confirm that the person operating an UAS has the correct qualifications and currency to operate the UAS.
  3. Confirm that before each flight, they check that the UAS is not damaged and that all components are working in accordance with the Supplier’s User Manual.
  4. Confirm that the UAS would be within the operator's sight at all times.
  5. Confirm that the UAS would be operated below 400ft above ground level at all times.
  6. Confirm that the UAS would be operated at the required separation distances from uninvolved people for the class of UAS, the qualification of the remote pilot and the operating environment.
  7. Note that the operator is responsible for avoiding collisions with other people or objects - including aircrafts. The UAS should NOT be flown in any way that could endanger people or property.
  8. Note that it is illegal to fly an unmanned aircraft near airports and airfields. Therefore if the intention was to use the UAV under these circumstances, without express permission from Air Traffic Control, then it would not be permitted.
  9. Notify the UAS Safety Team


Get in touch  Register a UAS (Staff)  UAS Logging Form  Pilot Registration