In the summer of 2018, the UK Government set in motion plans to ensure that all drone pilots register and pass safety tests. Then, in April this year, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a consultation document that outlined the scheme in more detail.
Included was an annual fee from drone and model aircraft pilots whose aircraft weigh over 250 grams. This would offset the cost of the Drone Registration Scheme. All pilots obliged to sign up would also have to sit an online competency test.
The controversy around these proposals centred on two points. First, the cost was difficult to justify for a year-long registration. And second, even paid-up members of model flying associations and drone pilots already carrying out commercial operations with the CAA’s permission would be required to register again.
Needless to say, there was plenty of criticism of the proposals. This month, a matter of weeks before the registration scheme is set to go live in November, the CAA has announced last-minute changes in a move that will address some of those initial concerns.
Changes to the UK CAA’s Drone Registration Scheme
The CAA’s registration scheme will be mandatory for UK drone pilots from November 30th, 2019. It will go live on 5 November 2019.
There will be two elements to the online system.
Anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg will need to register as an operator. The cost for this will be £9 (down from the initial £16) and is renewable annually.
Anyone flying a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg will need to take and pass an online education package. This is included in the registration fee and renewable every three years.
Both of these requirements become law on 30 November 2019.
The scheme will be available at www.register-drones.caa.co.uk.
The latest changes
On top of the reduction to the annual fee the scheme is now set to take into account prior permissions and the experience of pilots.
Holders of current CAA permissions or exemptions for drone operations are now exempt from sitting the safety test. The same goes for model flyers holding an achievement certificate issued by a UK model aircraft association.
Members of a range of industry groups, including ARPAS-UK, the British Model Flying Association (BMFA), Scottish Aeromodellers’ Association (SAA), Large Model Association (LMA) and FPV-UK no longer need to register with the CAA’s new scheme.
Instead, the industry associations will collect the registration fee from members and supply their data to the CAA.
An overview of the UK’s latest drone registration regulations
Aside from the above caveats, the new regulations apply to all drones and model aircraft from 250g to 20kg that are used outdoors.
There are three main requirements.
UK pilots must:
- pass an online test to get a flyer ID if you want to fly a drone or model aircraft
- register for an operator ID if you’re responsible for a drone or model aircraft
- label any drones and model aircraft you’re responsible for with your operator ID
What is a Flyer ID?
As mentioned above, anyone who wants to fly a drone weighing over 250 grams in the UK must pass an online theory test on flying safely and legally.
The test has 20 multiple choice questions and the pass mark is 16. You can take the test as many times as you need.
All of the knowledge needed to pass the test is in a new Drone and Model Aircraft Code.
When you pass the test, you’ll get a flyer ID, which acts as your acknowledgement of competency as a remote pilot from the CAA.
Minimum age: None, but children under 13 can only register with a parent or guardian present
Registration period: 3 years
What is an Operator ID?
Anyone responsible for a drone or model aircraft must register as an operator.
When you register, you’ll get an operator ID with your certificate of registration. You must display your operator ID on your drones and model aircraft. You can use the same operator ID for all your drones and model aircraft.
You must be aged 18 or over to be an operator.
Minimum age: 18
Registration period: 1 year