UK drone register takes off

A UK drone registration scheme has opened ahead of the deadline for owners to register their devices coming into force at the end of this month.

The UK government announced its intention to introduce a drone registration scheme two years ago.

The rules apply to drones or model aircraft weighting between 250g and 20kg.

Owners of drones wanting to fly the device themselves must also take and pass a theory test to gain a flyer ID by November 30. Anyone who wishes to fly a drone owned by someone else must also first obtain a flyer ID by passing the theory test.

UK ministers have come in for serious criticism for lagging on drone regulations in recent years after a spate of drone sightings at the country’s busiest airport grounded flights last December, disrupting thousands of travellers. In January flights were also briefly halted at Heathrow airport after another unidentified drone sighting.

This fall the police investigation into the Gatwick drone shutdown found that at least two drones had been involved. In September police also said they had been unable to identify any suspects — ruling out 96 people of interest.

Following the Gatwick disruption the government tightened existing laws around drone flights near airports — extending a no-fly zone from 1km to 5km. But a full drone bill, originally slated for introduction this year, has yet to take off.

As well as introducing a legal requirement for drone owners to register their craft via the Civil Aviation Authority’s website by November 30, the new stop-gap rules require organizations that use drones to register for an operator ID too, also at a cost of £9 per year.

All drones must also be labeled with the operator ID. This must be clearly visible on the main body of the craft, and easy to read when it’s on the ground, written in block capital letters taller than 3mm high.

The registered person who obtains the operator ID must be aged 18 or older and is accountable for managing drones to ensure only individuals with a flyer ID fly them.

Individuals must be aged 13 or older to obtain a flyer ID.

The online test for obtaining the flyer ID involves answering 20 multiple choice questions. The pass mark for the test is set at 16. There’s no limit on how many times the test can be taken.

The Civil Aviation Authority says everything needed to pass the test can be found in The Drone and Model Aircraft Code. There’s no charge for taking the test or obtaining the flyer ID.

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