Drone and Model Aircraft Registration in the UK will soon be live

by 25 Sep 2019

Drone registration in the UK: Who needs to be registered, how and why?

Stop press (30/9/2019): It looks like the opening of registration may be delayed up to 14 days.

On 1st October 2019 it will become mandatory for all drone and model aircraft users in the UK to register with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). “Drone” in this context is very broad and includes all users of radio-controlled aircraft over 250g at the point of take-off.

The UK CAA will open the online registration on the 1st October 2019 (although that date has now disappeared on the CAA website) and will begin enforcing it on 30th November.

So, to try to answer the questions we have been getting….

Why do drone operators have to register?

Registration has been written into UK Air Law since July 2018 when the CAA began to align their legislation with the EU. Have a look at my EU drone legislation post for more details.

When EASA introduced the Standard European Rules of the Air in 2012, for implementation in 2014, civilian drones were in their infancy and, as a result, were not considered for inclusion. Legislation for any aircraft under 150kg remained the remit of the national CAA of each EU member state. As a result, each EU country developed its own drone rules, with some regulating extremely strictly (e.g. The Netherlands, where full airworthiness is required for each drone) and others fairly relaxed (e.g. Switzerland, where as long as you are away from aerodromes and large numbers of people you are pretty much good to go).

This has caused huge issues for operators wishing to fly drones in different EU member states as part of their business, as they have effectively had to register in each state, applying the different rules and procedures.

The aim of the EASA civil drones (unmanned aircraft) regulatory framework is to standardise the rules across the European Union to facilitate the development of the drone industry across the EU.

Registration is the first part of that. Other elements can be found in my EU drone rules post.

Racing drone under 250 g

Who needs to register?

Well, basically, everyone who flies a drone over 250g. It doesn’t matter if you are operating the drone commercially or recreationally. My Babyhawk R Pro, the small racing drone above, is just under 250g with its battery, so won’t need to be part of my registration, although I’ll probably put my Operator ID on it anyway. Remember, the 250g includes everything attached to the drone at take off, including batteries. Pretty much anything bigger than the picture above will need to be registered. A DJI Spark, for example, weighs 300g, and a DJI Mavic 2 Pro 907g.

Where it gets a little complicated is when you think about how you tend to fly. Do you fly alone, or as part of a club or business?

There are two elements to registration: The first is registering as a pilot. This is free and requires you to sit an online test (we have seen the beta and it requires a good basic understanding of the UK drone regulations and how to apply them). Successful completion of the test will result in you being issued with a “Flyer ID”. A Flyer ID is valid for three years.

With your Flyer ID you then need to be associated with an Operator. The Operator is the person, business or organisation responsible for the aircraft.

So, if you own a drone and operate it yourself, you will have to register for both a Flyer ID and Operator ID. The Operator ID will need to be renewed annually.

If, however, you are part of a larger club or business that already has an operator ID, you can just register for a Flyer ID and provide that to the Operator.

If you are a business that operates drones you will need to register for an Operator ID and ensure that all your pilots have completed the online test to get their Flyer ID. At present, as far as we can tell, this is completely separate to the PfCO process. So if you have a PfCO, you will still need to register.

Once you have your Operator ID, it will need to be displayed clearly on any drone over 250 g that you fly.

The Flyer ID does NOT need to go on any drone, but it is advised that you have proof of your Flyer ID when out flying.


Baffled? Here are three (sort of fictional) examples ( I believe these are correct but am awaiting confirmation on the club aspect, as that is a little confusing)

Jonathan flies his own model planes recreationally on his farm in Wales

  1. Register for both a Flyer ID and Operator ID on the CAA site.
  2. Do the knowledge test
  3. Pay the registration fee
  4. Put the Operator ID on the planes

Carys has started a small FPV club in Derbyshire. The members only fly as part of the club.

  1. Register the club for an Operator ID
  2. Pay the registration fee
  3. Ask all members to carry out the knowledge test on the CAA website to get flyer IDs
  4. Put the club Operator ID on each drone

Jacques flies several drones as part of his business and recreationally as part of a registered club

  1. Register for a personal Flyer ID and an Operator ID for the business.
  2. Pay the registration fee.
  3. Put the business Operator ID on all business drones.
  4. Provide his Flyer ID to the club
  5. Put the club Operator ID on the recrational drones

How do I register my drone with the CAA?

Keep an eye on the CAA drone registration website for updates. They seem to have everything in place ready to go live on October 1st. As registration won’t be mandatory until 30th November it may be worth just waiting a few days to ensure that the system is working and there are no glitches. We have been involved in the beta testing since May this year, so hopefully it will be OK.

There is no minimum age to register for a Flyer ID, but children under 13 will need a parent present whilst registering.

To get an Operator ID you must be over 18. So, if you are under 18, you will need either to join a club that has registered for an Operator ID, or ask you parent to register for an Operator ID. Remember if your Operator ID is on a drone, those are the contact details that will be used to contact you in the event of an incident, as a result you should probably be quite wary of taking responsibility for large groups of pilots.

Some people may carry out drone work for a company but also fly as a hobby. As a result, once you have your Flyer ID to give to your company, you may also need to register for an Operator ID to put on your recreational drones.

How much does UK drone registration cost?

That hasn’t been confirmed yet, but we have seen values of £15.00 to £16.50 per year per Operator ID discussed.

I hope that makes sense. As usual, School of Drones members feel free to ask questions below or on the Facebook group to help me improve this post.

Fly safe!


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