Drone Pilots Risk £1,000 Fine If Not Registered

Tough new laws are swinging into place to clamp down on the problems associated with the illegal use of drones.

The scheme, launched by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) this week, will create a central register of all drones operated in the UK.

From the end of November, it will be a mandatory requirement for drone pilots (including children) to register any drone or model aircraft weighing between 250g (9oz) and 20kg (44lbs). Registered drone owners have to be over 18 years old.

Drone registration

So how does the scheme work in practice? Well, drone pilots will need to complete an online 20-question test to receive a pilot ID for free.

In order to pass, drone pilots need to score 16 out 20, and there is no limit to the amount of times a pilot can take the test.

Children under 13 must have permission from a parent or guardian before they can register as a drone pilot.

The drone pilot ID must be renewed every three years.

At the same time, from 30 November all drones need to be registered, and this will cost £9 per year.

Lost drones

The CAA will then issue a unique code to each drone. Doing so, it hopes, will help reunite pilots with lost drones.

“With over a quarter of drone owners admitting to having lost their drone, this service at dronesreunited.uk will be able to help reconnect owners with their lost devices thanks to the new UK drone registration system,” said the CAA.

Lost drones are apparently a “serious problem for flyers, as new research reveals that over a quarter of drone owners (26 percent) have lost a drone.”

The study found that drones are most at risk of being lost due to flight malfunctions – with more than half (51 percent) of misplaced drones going missing due to battery loss, poor signal, or a technology failure. And in a quarter of cases it’s down to pilot error, said the CAA.

Most worryingly for drone owners, when a drone is lost there is no clear procedure for getting it back.

“Drones Reunited is a UK-first – an essential service that is only possible thanks to the drone registration scheme that is also launched today,” explained Jonathan Nicholson, assistant director of communications at the CAA.

“The service is about giving something back to the community, helping responsible drone owners and operators to be reunited with lost drones and continue flying,” said Nicholson. “Our aim is for the Drones Reunited platform to become an essential service for the drone community – the first port of call for anyone who has lost, or found, a drone.”

Problem drones

In September the police said that the drone disruption at Gatwick airport last Christmas, was probably an inside job, with the rogue pilots having “detailed knowledge” of Gatwick when they used two drones to shut down the airport for 30 hours.

Days before Christmas, Gatwick airport had to take the unprecedented decision to close its single runway over a three day period, after drones were spotted.

Every time attempts were made to re-open the runaway, drones appeared once again.

The multiple appearances of a number of mysterious drones delayed the Christmas get away of 140,000 passengers and disrupted 1,000 flights.

Despite an extensive police search and the use of military systems, as well as £50,000 reward, the unidentified drone operators were not caught.

A couple were arrested, but were released without charge. The police also reportedly carried out 1,200 house-to-house inquiries and took 222 witness statements in a police operation costing £790,000.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

View Comments

  • Pretty pathetic that the CAA is going out of its way so as to pretend that this anything but a totally ridiculous scheme - Brought in by people who do not have the first idea about drones or model aircraft - Don't mean the CAA (they know quite a bit!) its about the extremely arrogant and stupid politicians pushing this scheme through against the majority of the wishes of the drone/model aircraft community.

    The CAA has had an excellent record in managing small unmanned aircraft (which is what drones and model aircraft are), there was no need to change the way it operated.

    Model aircraft and drones have been around for a long time, and have caused virtually zero issues when legally used (the vast majority). Those breaking the law such as prison drug smugglers and other illegal users simply will not register.
    Strangely criminals tend not to obey the law!

    Its even more frustrating that there is already an organisation that would have happily managed the scheme for a lot lower cost (British Model Flying Association) which most responsible flyers are members of and already have training schemes, insurance etc.

    In fact one can't help but ask who is making the money out of this whole scheme - some software/supplier company is making a nice little earner out of all this - no wonder logic is not being applied.

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