On Friday 26th April, the UK Civil Aviation Authority launched a consultation on the proposed charge for the UK’s new drone registration scheme that becomes a law at the end of November 2019. In 2018, the UK Government introduced a law which requires drone pilots who operate drones weighing above 250 grams to register with the CAA. The registration system is currently being developed with the target of an October 2019 launch.
How Does the UK Drone Registration Scheme Work?
The scheme will be an online process which will register operators rather than drones. Once operators have registered, they will receive a unique code which must be applied to all drones that they both own and are responsible for.
The Government has provided a significant amount of taxpayer funding to cover the costs of developing the new drone registration scheme up until 1st October 2019. From that date onwards, the costs of running the scheme will be accepted by those who use it under the ‘user pays’ principle. This is because as a statutory body, the CAA has to recover its costs from those it regulates. This is the funding model used for its other aviation regulation functions, for example regulation of pilots, engineers, general aviation, airlines and airports.
The proposed charge is estimated on numbers registered in similar schemes within the USA and Ireland. As there is no reliable evidence on drone ownership and use within the UK, the cost has been matched against the UK population and available research on drone use. The CAA have therefore based the costs on an assumption of 170,000 registrations over the initial 18-month period at a proposed charge of £16.50, per drone operator on an annual basis.
What Will The Proposed Charge Cover?
The £16.50 charge will cover the cost of running the registration scheme which includes:
- IT hosting and security costs
- CAA personnel and help desk
- Identity verification
- A national education and awareness campaign
- Costs of further upgrades to the initial drone registration service
If there is a significant over-recovery on top of the scheme’s running costs, then the CAA may consider reducing the charge over subsequent years.
How Do Drone Pilots Voice Their Opinion?
The CAA consultation, which provides drone operators with the opportunity to give their opinion on the cost, is open until 7th June 2019. Linked to the registration is an online drone safety education and test package. This will also be a legal requirement from the end of November for anyone flying a drone, whether or not they are a drone owner. There is no charge for this.
The CAA will be running a significant awareness campaign to alert drone owners and users of the requirements prior to them becoming law. The CAA’s Dronecode provides advice on how to fly your drone safely and responsibly. Drone pilots must follow the rules at all times in order to fly drones in the safest possible way.