50,000 drone owners face £1,000 fine as registration deadline looms

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Tens of thousands of drone owners could be risking a £1,000 fine for not signing up to a new register designed to keep track of their devices following a growing number of drone incidents near airports.

The registration legislation is due to come into effect on 30 November but only 40,000 drone owners have signed up so far out of an estimated 90,000 users in the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

Registration is mandatory for drone owners and operators in the UK with drones weighing over 250g. Registration costs £9 and can be completed online at register-drones.caa.co.uk

Those who register will be directed towards an online drone safety education and test package.

In October the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee expressed concern that some users will simply bypass registration and testing – a view which unmanned aircraft flying association FPV UK agreed with, describing it as “a multi-million-pound waste of time”.

CAA research suggests the scheme is not popular with drone owners, with fewer than half (49 per cent) saying it is useful in tracking unsafe drone flying.

UK Airprox Board figures show there were 125 near-misses between drones and aircraft reported in 2018, up by more than a third from 93 the previous year.

Last year the UK experienced one of the worst incidents when drones were flown near Gatwick Airport runways resulting in around 1,000 cancelled flights and more than 140,000 stranded passengers. The Airport’s CEO said such an incident “cannot happen again”.

Department store John Lewis stopped selling drones in May because of the chaos they have been causing.

In March, the drone no-fly zone around airports was extended from 1km to 5km.

CAA assistant director of communications Jonathan Nicholson said: “UK drone laws are changing and it’s vital that drone users – whether they fly regularly or not – are aware of how the drone registration scheme will affect them.

“Registration becomes law from the 30 November. If you are caught flying a drone from then, and unable to present proof of registration, you could be hit with a £1,000 fine.

“The online registration system has been designed to be as intuitive and accessible as possible, meaning those that need to register online can do so easily by the deadline.”

The registration system could also help to reunite owners with their lost drones as they will be linked to a unique ID, which must be displayed on devices.

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