Drone Registration Coming to the UK

The Department for Transport is planning changes to drone regulations in the UK. This follows a consultation with the public which ran from December of 2016 to March 2017. A drone registration scheme being one of the main takeaway points.

The document detailing the public responses come the day after the Department for Transport released a call for evidence on a new aviation strategy for the UK.

The three steps the Government is planning to take as a response to the consultation are:

  • implement a registration scheme and mandatory competency tests for all users of drones weighing 250 g and above;
  • bring forward work to create an authoritative source of UK airspace data, which will facilitate the implementation of geo-fencing and build greater awareness of airspace restrictions amongst drone users;
  • explore further measures such as increasing penalties, creating new offences and reviewing the powers available to law enforcement agencies to enforce relevant law.

With the response document, they released a summary report on what a dronestrike can do to aircraft.

Aviation Minister Lord Callanan said:

“The UK is at the forefront of an exciting and fast-growing drones market and it is important we make the most of this emerging global sector.”

“Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones. Increasingly, drones are proving vital for inspecting transport infrastructure for repair or aiding police and fire services in search and rescue operations, even helping to save lives.”

“But like all technology, drones too can be misused. By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”

Lackluster Response?

There are over 3,000 drone users registered with the Civil Aviation Authority for commercial operations. And many more hobby flyers  &  model aircraft enthusiasts.

However, the Government received just 678 responses in the consultation. From a wide range of people and organisations – not just those who fly drones.

This number seems a little small to be making plans that will affect the 3,000 plus commercial operators, as well as recreational and model aircraft flyers. Let alone, the other airspace users and the public.

Is Drone Registration the Answer?

A drone registration scheme has been tried in the USA. However, it has not quite worked. There have been legal challenges which have weakened it. Also, they have taken no enforcement actions from using it.

‘No consensus’. That is how I would sum up the public comments on the registration of drones. The Civil Aviation Authority and Department for Transport will have to do some considerable work.

The fine detail needed is just not there.  Hopefully, they will release details of what they are planning. Allowing people to comment on them and assess what it means to them. This will give them a say and also allow business to plan for registration.

There are also proposals for drone registration in rules drafted by the European Aviation Safety Agency. These rules are currently out for consultation. So if you want to have your say on them you can still do so. And as the UK is still part of the EU for the time being (and the aviation industry like harmonised regulations) you can still have influence as an individual.

The FOIA showing that no enforcement actions have been taken based on the list of registered drones.