Users must sit online test and pay annual fee of £9 to join register or face £1,000 fine.

Drone users in the UK must now sit an online test and pay a £9 annual fee or face a £1,000 fine after the launch of a mandatory national registration scheme on Tuesday.

Owners are obliged to identify and label all drones by 30 November, and operators must pass a test about legal and safe usage before they can fly them.

The Civil Aviation Authority estimates that about 130,000 people will have to pay and register by the end of the month.

All drones weighing more than 250g, which encompasses virtually all but the smallest toys, must be registered and labelled with a unique licence number. This means they will have to be grounded to identify their owners, but in future it could be done remotely or while drones are in the air. Some models already have transmitters that would enable that.

The government announced the register in 2017 in response to growing concern over drone use, from smuggling drugs into prisons to the potential for collisions with planes around airports. Plans for a database of owners predated the most high-profile incident, the prolonged closure of Gatwick airport last December when a drone was repeatedly flown near the runway. Further legislation has since been tabled to enhance police powers, including possible on-the-spot fines.

Pilots welcomed the launch of the register. The Balpa union’s head of flight safety, Rob Hunter, said: “This is another measure to encourage responsible drone operation, which is desperately needed to ensure a collision between an aircraft and a drone is avoided.”

In a bid to soften the blow of mandatory tests and fees for owners, the CAA is launching an accompanying “drones reunited” site, citing research showing that more than one in four owners claims to have lost a drone. The platform will allow the CAA to return wayward drones, an occupational hazard that results from loss of power, poor signal, technical failure or operator error.

A CAA spokesman said the site would “give something back to the community, helping responsible drone owners and operators to be reunited with lost drones and continue flying”.


[The Guardian – original article]

[Picture – The Guardian/John Stillwell/PA]