Air Ambulances UK and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) can reveal that air ambulance charities across the UK are expected to collectively fly around 1,000 lifesaving air ambulance missions during December with a total of about 180 crew members operational each day, delivering vital pre-hospital emergency care to people with a sudden critical injury or illness including over the festive period of Christmas and New Year.

While many people take time off during December to get festive with friends and family, air ambulance charities throughout England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will continue to deliver their vital services, with some of the charities operating 24/7. This year, that includes around 40 helicopters ready to take to the skies every day over the Christmas period.

Air ambulance charities form part of the UK’s frontline emergency response services, making lifesaving missions to around 80 people a day in urgent need of pre-hospital lifesaving care. This Christmas just like every other day of the year, the pilots, paramedics, doctors, and fire crew of air ambulance charities across the country will be taking to the skies to save lives.

These critical care helicopters often operate below the 400ft (120M) maximum height for drone flying. So, to help keep the air ambulance charities flying safely and help treat more people in local communities, the CAA is reminding drone users to keep a good look out for helicopters when flying their drones and make sure they keep their drones well away from helicopters and aircraft.

Simmy Akhtar, Chief Executive Officer of Air Ambulances UK, said: “Air ambulance charities right across the UK have continued to provide their vital lifesaving services to those in desperate need of pre-hospital critical care throughout the pandemic and beyond. Now, during the festive period, drone users can do their bit to support our air ambulance charities too. All of us at home can play a part in keeping our sky safe this Christmas by being mindful of the CAA’s drone regulations.”


Jonathan Nicholson, Assistant Director of Communications, CAA, said: “With more than 400,000 registered drone owners across the UK, and more expected to be added during the festive period as people receive new drones for Christmas, we’re asking all drone users to fly safely and to especially be on the lookout for low flying helicopters. In many cases when flying below 400ft (120M) drones and helicopters have equal access to airspace but, in reality, a drone user is much more likely to see and hear an approaching helicopter. So, we ask drone users in those situations to keep their drones well away and land if possible. They can then help to make sure that life-saving helicopters can operate safely.”

 Some key elements of the UK’s drone rules that users need to follow are:

  • Never fly above 400ft (120 meters)
  • always keep your drone in sight
  • never fly near airfields or airports
  • register with the CAA as a drone operator and take the Flyer ID test
  • follow the Dronecode

For more information on drone safety, to register as a drone operator of flyer, and see the full laws covering drone flying please go to www.caa.co.uk/drones

Image credits:

Lead helicopter image: Tim Wallace (Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance)

Cockpit: Great Western Air Ambulance Charity

Helicopter: Graeme Hart, Perthshire Picture Agency (Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance)