Drone and Model Aircraft Registration in the UK is now live

by 25 Sep 2019

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

UPDATE (05/11/2019): UK drone registration is now live. It will be enforced as of the end of November so we still have some time to get our heads in gear!

On 5th November 2019 it became 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 between 250g and 20kg at the point of take-off.

The UK CAA will opened the online registration on the 5th November 2019 and will begin enforcing it on 30th November.

In a slightly strange response to complaints from various bodies the CAA had decided to issue various exemptions to both the pilot competence test and the operator registration, allowing third party organisations to register members with the CAA. I’m not quite sure how this will impact people in terms of GDPR, information management and who has responsibility for managing information changes or even reponsibility for aircraft marking. As a result, our recommendation for the moment will be to register with the CAA directly or to talk carefully to your membership organisation if they are getting involved. More details below.

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. Interestingly, even though the DJI Mavic Mini is under 250g, you are probably still going to have to register it anyway, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the prop guards weight 23g and will push the Mavic over 250g, so if you put them on you will need to register. Also, as of next July, even if a drone is under 250g, if it is camera equipped and not a toy it will still need to be registered.

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 (which took me about 5 minutes) 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.

Please remember that there are CAA exemptions to carrying out the test and it is possible to register via some third party bodies. Our advice is just to do the test and register directly. Then you are in control of your own data with the CAA and quickly have the numbers you need to put on your drone as well as a Flyer ID in case anyone asks you for it. It is a lot easier than having to explain exemption paperwork.

 

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?

You can register with the CAA for your drone Flyer ID and operator ID at register-drones.caa.co.uk

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?

The fee has been confirmed as £9.00 per operator per year. It is free to sit the pilot competence test only.

What about the CAA exemptions to direct drone registration and the online test?

This is a direct copy from the CAA website as I don;t want to get it wrong. Personally, I think that some of these exemptions are going to cause more issues than they solve, but I am happy to be proved wrong. Please make sure you view the CAA drone registration page as the authoritative source for up-to-date information.

For holders of current CAA permissions or exemptions for drone operations (e.g. such as the permission related to commercial operations as required in ANO article 94(5)) and model flyers holding an achievement certificate issued by a UK model aircraft association with a CAA reviewed achievement scheme:

Remote pilots flying in accordance with a permission, exemption or operational authorisation (e.g. such as the permission related to commercial operations as required in ANO article 94(5)) that has been issued to a named UAS operator by the CAA will be exempt from having to undertake the online education training and test.

Similarly, where a UK model aircraft association already has an established and CAA reviewed ‘competency scheme’, members who hold an appropriate achievement certificate or award (such as the BMFA ‘A’ certificate) will also be exempt from having to undertake the online education training and test.

Any operators who are not covered under the conditions of a permission/exemption or do not hold a recognised association competency will need to complete the free online course.

To allow operators to demonstrate competence if challenged (for example by the police) the CAA will be issuing a formal exemption that can be used alongside existing permissions / achievements and any other relevant documents.  This exemption will be in place until 30 June 2020, when new regulations are expected.  We will be working with stakeholders in 2020 to put these into place.

For members of ARPAS-UK, British Model Flying Association (BMFA), Scottish Aeromodellers’ Association (SAA), Large Model Association (LMA) and FPV UK:

Members will not need to register as an operator with the CAA system if they are a current member of these associations. With permission, the associations will collect the registration fee from members directly and supply their data to the CAA. This will take place initially by 31 January 2020 and an exemption from the need to register will be put in place by 30 November to cover association members until then.

The associations will issue further detailed guidance to their members in due course.

Control line model aircraft flying:

The CAA will be issuing an exemption meaning those flying control line model aircraft will not need to comply with the registration or education regulations.

 

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!

Elliott

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