UK Drone Registration

UK Drone Pilots and Modellers Displeased With New Registration Law Taking Effect This Month

The UK’s new Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DRES) is now live, and operators of small unmanned aircraft (drones) and model aircraft are required to register their craft and complete an online theory test through the service by November 30.

The new registration scheme comes into effect alongside strong opposition from the small unmanned aircraft community, especially model plane flyers.

The Telegraph reports that the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) lost more than 2,000 members in the last year after it was found out they would have to register and take tests as part of incoming drone regulations.

To those contemplating giving up your lifelong passion, I would urge you not to be too hasty. Like it or not, the march of technology is unstoppable and our aim is to ensure that model flying can continue as freely as possible as the lower airspace becomes ever more crowded and regulated.

— Ian Pallister FSMAE, BMFA Chairman

Requirements of the UK’s New Registration Scheme

There are two elements to the online system, run by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

  • Anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg needs to register as an operator. There is an annual registration fee of £9.
  • Anyone flying a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg must take and pass an online theory test. The test is free and good for three years.
Both of these requirements become law on November 30, 2019.

Model Flying Associations Speak Out Against the CAA’s New Registration Scheme

According to the 11,000 comments submitted to the CAA during a two-month consultation period, these were the primary concerns regarding the proposed scheme:

  • A significant number of respondents felt that the running costs of the scheme and the proposed charge of £16.50 should be lowered.
  • Some respondents expressed a preference for the validity period to be increased from one year and to bring in cheaper renewal fees.
  • Respondents felt strongly that the requirements for Permission holders and for aero modelling association members who obtain voluntary RC Achievement Scheme certificates should not be required to sit the online test, under the UK Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme.

The CAA has responded to the public’s concerns by:

  • Reducing the cost to register to £9 annually and making the online theory test free. However, there are concerns that the fee will increase in the future and registration will still require renewal every year.
  • Enabling members of BMFA, LMA, FPV, and SAA to register and pay the £9 fee through their respective associations.
  • Exempting flyers from the online theory testing requirement until June 30, 2020 if they comply with competency regimes already established by certain model flying associations. These include the SAA, LMA, BMFA, FPV UK, and remote pilots operating under a CAA permission, exemption or operational authorization. After June 30, 2020, remote pilot competency requirements will be subject to the new set of EU UAS Regulations that become applicable from July 1, 2020.

You can review all of the CAA’s responses to the comments submitted during the consultation period, by viewing the CAA Response Document.

Even with the above-described adjustments to the registration scheme, there is still unrest about the new requirements among the modeling and small unmanned aircraft community.

From the outset, the UK model flying Associations (of which the BMFA is by far the largest) have been, and remain, strongly opposed to the imposition of the DRES scheme on model flyers.

—Ian Pallister FSMAE, BMFA Chairman

While we feel that a drone registration system does enhance safety and accountability among the sUAS community, the UK registration scheme places a heavier burden on flyers than in other countries. In the U.S., drone operators are required to register their drones for about half the cost and the registration is good for three years. In France, registration is legally required but free.

BY Isabella  Lee    13 November 2019