UK to require drones and their operators to be registered

Out-Law News | 25 Jul 2017 | 1:17 pm | 2 min. read

All drones weighing at least 250g, as well as the people operating them, will need to be registered under new regulatory proposals outlined by the UK government.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said (65-page / 1MB PDF) the measure will be aimed at "increasing the accountability of drone users". There is likely to be a charge for registration to "cover the cost of running the scheme", it said.

"We will require all drone users of drones of 250g and above to register themselves, and their drone(s) too," the government said. "The government will work with stakeholders to consider how best to embed electronic identification and tracking capability within this registration scheme so that enforcement action against irresponsible drone use can be improved."

Leisure users will also be obliged to "complete relevant mandatory educational requirements", such as online or mobile app-based tests, as part of their registration process. Commercial drone pilots are already subject to safety requirements.

The DfT said that the new registration and education scheme is just the start of new measures to further regulate and support the use of drones. Further steps are planned in future to "support commercial users of drones", it said.

The DfT said it plans to update existing UK rules in line with "European drone regulations" and reform the "permissions process" currently overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) "to bring in greater efficiency and effectiveness".

In addition, a new working group will be established to look to "improve the insurance regime" around the operation of drones.

In the longer term, the government plans to "create an authoritative source of UK airspace data" which would be used to prevent drones being operated in certain zones, such as around prisons, through the use of "geo-fencing" technology.

The DfT said it would also explore potential new penalties to deter the misuse of drones. These could include higher fines for "flying a drone with a camera within 150m of a large crowd of people without a CAA exemption", and banning drones being operated within a certain distance of airports without specific permission from air traffic control or the CAA.

"At the same time as drone usage is growing rapidly, the drone industry’s technical capabilities and requirements are also changing at pace," the DfT said. "It is important that we do our best to anticipate these advances and develop the policy and regulatory framework to accommodate them."

"The UK has a world leading safety regime, underpinned by an air traffic management system which controls one of the most congested areas of airspace in the world. We recognise that if the UK is to unlock the full potential of drones and their applications in the UK, this will only be possible by a management system that allows for the integration of drones with other airspace users and supports the commercial and public use of drones," it said.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority issued new guidelines in July 2015 to recreational drone users in the UK, reminding them to fly "safely and legally" and not use cameras within 50 metres of people, buildings or vehicles.

New regulations on flying drones were introduced in Germany earlier this year.