May 1, 2016
No Fly Zone: Queen Elizabeth II Bans Drones Over Sandringham Estate In Security Move

Over fears that a remote-controlled device could carry a chemical weapon or bomb, Queen Elizabeth II has banned drones from flying over her Sandringham Estate. This ban will also help to preserve the privacy of the Royal family while they are in residence.

The unmanned craft are forbidden to fly over the Queen's property, which covers 20,000 acres in north Norfolk, without express permission. While the ban will be in place to prevent terror attacks on the Royal family, it will also prevent the possibility of paparazzi photographers using drones to take aerial photos of shooting parties and other private activities on the estate.

According to the Daily Mail, in December last year, the Department of Transport made it a criminal offense at any time for low-flying aircraft or drones to fly within 1.5 miles of Prince William and Kate Middleton's Cambridge home on the estate at Anmer Hall. That ban is in place from December to the end of February each year, when Queen Elizabeth II and other Royal family members are often in residence.

In essence, the restrictions against drones are similar to those imposed around nuclear power stations, airports and military bases in the U.K., with offenders facing a fine of up to £5,000 ($7,300).

The only aerial vehicles that are exempt from the ban are police and coastguard helicopters and air ambulances. Helicopters can also land in the restricted zones if they have the correct permission.

In the case of Sandringham House, the ban against drones is in place all year round. This ban effectively more than quadruples the size of the no fly zone around Anmer Hall and the grounds, which include a tennis court and swimming pool for use by Prince William and Kate.

Reportedly, posters have been placed announcing the ban by Queen Elizabeth II, reading, "The use of tripods and drones is not permitted anywhere on Sandringham Estate without prior consent and approval of insurance and licence documentation."

However, according to the Mirror Online, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said it was unclear how such a ban on drones could be enforced over the entire Sandringham Estate, saying landowners do not automatically control the airspace over their land.

The spokesman went on to suggest that drones could still be flown over the estate as long as their operators were situated in a public place and followed the CAA's standard Air Navigation Rules for drones.

Reportedly, those rules state that drones can only be flown below 400ft and must fly at least 50m away from any person or building. The drones must also be in constant sight of the operators and cannot be more than 500m away from them. They also cannot be flown within 150m of congested areas, including large gatherings of people or over towns.

The spokesman said, "You can't land or take off from someone's property without permission, but you can still fly over the property. Nobody owns the air under UK law."

According to Paul Rigby of the Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems UK, anyone breaking Air Navigation rules can be fined up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,652), but he did say the drone ban over the entire Sandringham estate is "not really legally enforceable" as long as operators flew within the Air Navigation Rules.

However, he did say anyone trying the patience of the Queen and other members of Royal family by flying a drone over their property could still have legal consequences, including potential legal action for breach of privacy or harassment.

He said, "There is case law which states that you can fly over private land without permission, but as responsible operators we recommend that all drone users get the consent of landowners before flying over land."

That would definitely have to include the permission of Queen Elizabeth II.

[Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]