Drone safety and the law

Drones are becoming a common sight – they’re getting easier to obtain as they become cheaper and readily available on the high street.

They allow you to capture beautiful photography but even the cheapest, smallest model poses a risk to the railway, our passengers and staff.

Flying drone

Drones and the railway

It can be illegal to fly a drone on or near the railway. If in doubt please contact the Air Operations team via the Network Rail contact us process or email droneenquiries@networkrail.co.uk

If a train collided with a drone, it could cause a serious accident.

A drone could fly into and damage vital equipment – such as overhead wires or pylons – costing thousands to repair and causing hours of train delays. And a drone falling from the sky – malfunctioning or out of power – could hit a member of public or our staff, and cause serious injury or death.

Network Rail manages nearly 1000 drone flights over track per year. Network Rail needs to know what other flights there are near to our extremely hazardous environment. For that reason talk to us.

Various electrical powerplant that Network Rail use to propel the trains can give off an electrical magnetic pulse (EMP) that can affect the control of the drones, talk to us to manage that risk and gain advice on how close is safe.


Case study: Essex Police

On Sunday 1 October 2017 a 28-year-man was reported for breaching the Air Navigation Order 2016. He had been flying a drone within 50 metres of the railway on Saturday 12 August 2017
when the Tornado steam train came to Kirby Cross, Tendring. The man, from Kirby Cross, was reported to police on Wednesday 16 August 2017. He was dealt with by means of an agreement contract with Essex Police and given a community resolution.

“This is the first drone incident Essex Police has dealt with and we, along with the British Transport Police, are clamping down on illegal use of drones and will be prosecuting more infringements. The British Transport Police carried out a similar process on Thursday 28 September 2017 with a second operator reported to court.”

Investigating officer PC Paul Lindup, Essex Police

If you witness what you believe to be a dangerous use of a drone please call 101 stating the location and time and any evidence you can gain of the offence.

Leave it to the professionals

Only authorised Network Rail pilots and specialist approved contractors are permitted to fly drones near the railway (when conducting railway related drone surveys) having been granted a qualification from a training organisation approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Our highly-trained pilots have gone through a meticulous training regime and operations are strictly in accordance with Network Rail’s standards including our Drone Operations Manual. We have a team of professional pilots who are certified to fly drones within 50 metres of our infrastructure.

Sometimes our team is needed at short notice. We have pilots based all across the country and they can reach emergency situations quickly if the helicopter is on other duties.

How we use drones

Find out more: