Drone Operator Legal Requirements

Posted on: 2nd May 2019

New Drone Registration Scheme

Drone operators will have to pay an annual charge of £16.50 under plans to introduce a new registration scheme. From the end of November, drone operators and operators of model aircraft weighing between 250g and 20kg will be legally required to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

An online registration system will be launched in October, with the CAA now consulting on its registration fee to help cover its costs. Only  18’s and above will be able to join the scheme, with registration applying to operators rather than drones.

  • Once registered, each operator will receive a unique code that must be applied to all drones for which they are responsible.
  • All drone pilots will also be legally required to complete a free online safety test from November, whether or not they are the drone owner.
  • Failure to comply with the rules could lead to a fine of £1,000.

The aviation regulator estimates that 170,000 operators will join the register with 18 months.

Its proposed £16.50 annual charge per operator is based on similar schemes in the US and Ireland and on drone usage research. The CAA fee level would be reviewed after its introduction, with any changes implemented from April 2021.

There will be an awareness campaign to alert drone owners to the new legal requirements. Registration will be separate from the CAA’s existing charges for commercial operation permits (PfCO).

The introduction of the registration scheme comes after the travel chaos at Gatwick airport caused by a number of drone sightings in the week leading up to Christmas. Britain’s second busiest airport was shut for 33 hours. Gatwick and Heathrow have now invested millions in their own systems to prevent future disruptions.