UK Drone Users Register Today Or Risk £1,000 Fine

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British drone pilots have until today to register or risk a £1,000 fine. But will criminals and rogue drone operators care?

New laws to clamp down on the problems associated with the illegal use of drones are coming into force today.

By the end of Friday 29 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.

The scheme had been launched earlier this month by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and is designed to create a central register of all drones operated in the UK.

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Drone registration

The scheme works by requiring drone pilots 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.

This will result in the CAA issuing a unique code to each drone. Doing so, it hopes, will help reunite pilots with lost drones.

Over a quarter of drone owners have lost a drone, research has shown.

Will it work?

But some have questioned why there is a need for this new scheme in the first place, as there are already rules in place governing the use of drones in this country.

There have also been questions about whether the British Model Flying Association (which many drone pilots already belong to) would have been a better governing body of the scheme.

And critics will argue that the CAA registration scheme will do nothing to clamp down on existing criminals or rogue drone operators.

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For example, prison drug smugglers that fly their drones into prisons are already breaking the law, and therefore it is highly unlikely that they, or indeed other illegal drone users, will suddenly opt to register their drones with CAA.

And last week a rogue drone reportedly came within 20m (65ft) of an A320-series airliner as it was one minute away from landing at Gatwick airport.

Again, this rogue operator is unlikely to opt for the CAA registration.

Problem drones

There is also concern that this is a rushed response to the problem of rogue 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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Author: Tom Jowitt
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