Legal advice for using a drone on a construction site

As the use of drones on construction sites becomes increasingly common, many site managers may be wondering whether they too can use drones on their construction sites to increase productivity and speed up the building process.

At Royds Withy King we have a team of drone law experts with a background in aerospace. This team is headed up by Dispute Resolution lawyer and ex-RAF fighter controller Phil Banks-Welsh. A regular on television and radio, Phil gives some practical advice for any site manager looking to use a drone on a construction site.

Philip Banks-Welsh drone lawyer

What are the main uses of drones on a building site?

Their are many construction and engineering projects where the use of drone can help with productivity, safety, or simply showing off the site to key stakeholders. As specialists in this quickly emerging field we have listed a number of the ways that you can use a drone in the construction process.

  • Building Surveys 
  • Construction Site Inspections 
  • Health and Safety Inductions 
  • Maintenance Inspections 
  • Project Progress Reports
  • Promotional Photography
  • Live feed/ virtual walk around
  • Site logistics
  • Point cloud/ laser scanning
  • Thermal Imaging recording
  • Construction mapping and 3D modelling
  • Progress monitoring
  • Security inspections
  • Risk and safety inspections

What are the main regulatory challenges a construction manager needs to consider when flying a drone on a building site?

Is it licensed?

It is necessary to ensure that the operator of any drone is appropriately insured, qualified and licenced. Any drone operator using drones in a commercial environment needs to be licenced by the Civil Aviation Authority, and the licencing required is dependent on the weight of the drone, including any payload. The Civil Aviation Authority has the full list of licensed Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) operators holding a valid CAA permission.

How much does it weigh?

Drones of different weights are also subject to restrictions in terms of where they can be flown by reference to people, structures and vehicles. This position can change where the people, structures or vehicles are within the drone operators “operational management”

Have you thought about dangers?

Health and Safety is also a major factor and needs to be coordinated carefully in the context of other regulatory restrictions. There is a need to consider obtaining consents from the workforce, and appropriate induction involving drone operations, as well as the careful mapping out of flights and flight plans. Risk allocation for personal injury and property damage also needs to be considered.

Don’t forget privacy

GDPR/privacy considerations are also important and need to be addressed between operators and contractors, and also need to be considered in the context of the capture of data involving the workforce.

The overriding position is that regulatory permissions only provide authority to use a drone from a safety perspective and operations are always subject to rules and regulations imposed by other organisations and bodies including emergency services, Highways Agency and local authorities and checks should be undertaken to ensure that use of drones on a construction site will not violate any such restrictions.

Do I need contractual agreements to fly on a building site?

Given the range of issues associated with using drones in a construction environment it is considered highly advisable to have in place adequate contractual provisions that deal with regulatory compliance, insurance, workforce induction and health and safety compliance, site restrictions and procedures in relation to flight operations and risk allocation. We can help to ensure that you have an efficient and robust contract in place.

Do I need special insurance to fly a drone on a building site?

Yes.  At present Regulation (EC) EC Reg 785/2004 requires all air carriers and aircraft operations, including commercial drone operators, to have insurance cover for each flight that is undertaken.  An application for permission or authorisation to the CAA needs to demonstrate that appropriate insurance cover is already in place.


Contact us and speak to a member of our drone team who can help with your drone enquiry.

The Royds Withy King Technology & Media team helped me to negotiate a complex compromise agreement with a large multinational. They devised a strategic approach which not only resulted in a successful trade mark registration to protect our existing products, but also a plan that included future expansion. They always had their eye on the bigger picture.
Roger Biles, Co-founder & Managing Director, ARCO England Limited (

Get in touch

    We will only use data from this form to process your enquiry.