Every drone and model aircraft owner in the UK could be charged £16.50 a year under plans by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Set to be launched from October 1 this year, the registration would become a legal requirement under the Air Navigation Order from November 30. The CAA is developing an entirely new online registration system ahead of a planned launch in October. Its important features include:
- Only those aged 18 and above will be able to join the scheme, with registration applying to operators rather than drones.
- The plans would affect anyone who owns a drone that weighs more than 250 grams (8oz).
- Once registered, each operator will receive a unique code that must be applied to all drones they are responsible for.
- All drone flyers will also be legally required to complete a free online safety test from November, whether or not they are the drone owner.
- The CAA said failure to comply with the rules could lead to a fine of £1,000.
- The proposals do not affect the CAA’s existing charges for commercial operation permits.
- An awareness campaign will alert drone owners to the new legal requirements.
- Registration will be separate from the CAA’s existing charges for commercial operations permits.
The Government has provided funding for the scheme until October, after which the CAA will need to recoup running costs. The CAA said the fee level would be reviewed after its introduction, with any changes implemented from April 2021. The CAA’s final decision is expected by July. A public consultation on the proposals closes on 7 June.
While the CAA estimates 170,000 people will register, as a part of the new EU rules each member state will have to hold a national register of drone users from next year.
Similar registration scheme in France is free of coast, where as in the US it costs $5 (£3.80) and in Ireland costs €5 (£4.30). But the CAA says these schemes are part, or wholly, subsidized by the taxpayer.
Mixed reactions to this drone regulatory fee are coming in. The FVP UK Association, which represents 4,000 flyers, said it “strongly opposes” the charge, which it said was “far too high”.
Carys Kaiser, a photographer from the Peak District who runs the Drone Lass blog, said the fee risked discouraging people from taking up the hobby. The idea of a registration scheme is welcome she said but the CAA should focus on providing better guidance for drone operators.
Drone enthusiast Paul Jaggers from Twickenham in west London also believes the cost of the license is “extremely overpriced”.
But Gemma Alcock, whose company SkyBound Rescuer provides drone use consultation to emergency services welcomed the CAA’s proposals. Alcock said, “I think operator registration is vital for accountability, to hopefully deter drone operators from misuse. A fee from operators is needed and £16.50 is – in my eyes – a reasonable amount. I think it’s a positive step forward.”
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