With medical delivery drones, search and rescue drones, emergency response drones and other applications at the enterprise level beginning to mature and take hold in low-level airspace both the government, industry and landowners recognise that it is important to inform new drone users of what is going on in low-level airspace so its possible to plan a flight safely. To do this it’s import to know where, when and how drone pilots are flying so that conflicts between hobbyist and essential services do not arise.
As of November 2019 it is compulsory to register all drones (weighing between 250g to 20kg) and flyer details via the CAA’s Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES). Later in 2020 new scheduled legislation will require that all new drones carry Remote ID whilst all existing drones will be required to retrofit a firmware Remote ID update capability before being allowed to fly in low-level airspace.
In simple terms Drone Registration is similar to having a licence to drive a car and a car number plate in that by having both it demonstrates that you are able to drive a car and that your car can be identified for purposes of compliance.
This means everyone and anyone wanting to operate a drone or model aircraft weighing between 250g and 20kg, in low-level airspace outdoors, in the UK, needs to register their drone via the CAA’s website before any UK flight takes place.
What does Compulsory Drone Registration with the UK Civil Aviation Authority Involve?
You must have two registrations in place before you fly a drone or model aircraft that’s 250g to 20kg:
Anyone who will fly must pass a theory test to get a Flyer ID; (using the car analogy this is a bit like the drone equivalent of having a driving license number for domestic/social use)
The person that’s responsible for the drone or model aircraft must register to get an Operator ID (using the car analogy this is like the drone equivalent of a car number plate);
You need to register to get a Flyer ID and Operator ID to fly legally within the UK.
The flyer is the person who flies the drone or model aircraft.
Before you can fly legally in the UK you are required by the CAA to pass the free online theory test on their website to get a flyer ID. This is free and renewable every three years
Children and adults must pass the test. For under 13s a parent or guardian must register the child to fly, but the child must take the test if they want to fly.
Tests take around 20 minutes to complete. It’s a good idea to prepare for the test before you take it be reading up the resources on the DronePrep Platform.
The operator is responsible for making sure that only people with a valid flyer ID use their drone or model aircraft.
Drone operators must label their drones and model aircraft with their operator ID.
You must be over the age of 18 to register for an operator ID.
The cost for this is £9 per year.
If you’re responsible for drones or model aircraft, but will not fly them you can register as an operator only. For example, if you’re responsible for your child’s drone.
What Do I Have To Do In The Theory Test?
You are required by the CAA to pass the DMARES theory test before you can get a flyer ID.
The compulsory theory test is designed to help new drone pilots flying within the UK achieve a basic level of knowledge and competency so that they may have the baseline minimum knowledge necessary to explore how to safe and legally compliant way.
There are 20 multiple choice questions and the pass mark is 16.
You can take the test as many times as you like.
You can refer to The Drone Code and DronePrep resources throughout to help you and there after you can use the DronePrep Map and location search to help plan compliant flights and find new compliant places to fly.
Registering As An Organisation To Use Drones
Organisations must register for an operator ID if they are responsible for drones or model aircraft. Registration is £9 annually.
Examples of organisations that may need to register include businesses, schools, colleges, universities, voluntary organisations, clubs and charities.
The person who registers must be authorised to be the accountable manager for drones and model aircraft in your organisation.
You must label your drones and model aircraft with your operator ID.
You can use the same operator ID for all your drones and model aircraft.
You must only allow people with a valid flyer ID to fly your organisation’s drones or model aircraft. This will show they’ve passed the theory test on flying safely and legally.
You’ll still need to register even if you already have:
an existing permission or exemption from the Civil Aviation Authority (the permission that allows commercial operations is sometimes referred to as a PfCO);
any relevant flight permission or exemption from any other organisation, such as an airport.
How To Label Your Drone With Your Operator ID
You must label your operator ID on every drone or model aircraft you’re responsible for.
Your Operator ID must be:
visible without needing a special tool to remove or open part of your aircraft
clear and in block capitals taller than 3mm
secure and safe from damage
on the main body of the aircraft
easy to read when the aircraft is on the ground
You should use a removable label as your operator ID may change when you renew. You’ll need to remove your label if you’re no longer responsible for the drone or model aircraft.
Always use your Operator ID, not your Flyer ID.
Does my UK Drone Registration Mean That I Am Registered to Fly Outside of The UK?
No. Your UK registration is not valid outside of the UK. Please check with the relevant aviation authority in your destination country for details of local requirements for flying drones.
Do I Need to Register if I am Visiting The UK?
Yes they do. If you plan on visiting the UK with your drone then the UK drone rules will apply.
What Happens If I Don’t Register Or Sit The Test?
Users who fail to register could face fines of up to £1,000
What If My Drone Is Under 250g?
If your drone is under 250g, you do not need to currently pass the test. Watch this space thought as it is widely expected the 2020 legislation update will include a tweak to the qualifying definitions in response to new well equipped and popular drones coming to market (like the DJI Mini Mavic that currently weighs in at 249g).
What If I Am Flying My Drone Indoors?
If you are flying your drone indoors or in a securely netted area, you do not need to pass the test.
If, like me, you are new to Drone flying the DJI Tello is the perfect starter drone to practice safe and simple flying.
The Tello is designed to be flown in very low wind environments due to it only weighing approximately 80g (with propellers and battery). This also makes is perfect for indoor flight – you just need to find a space big enough to have some fun!
I was initially drawn to the Tello EDU because it’s programmable which makes it perfect for education and was a great excuse to learn Scratch and Swift (you can also use Python). Check out TELLO EDU tablet app for a great training base.
One of the best bits is that you can make it flip: Hours of fun!
So when team DronePrep recently visited one of our early adopter clients; Kiplin Hall in Yorkshire and we were asked if we could capture some images of the interior – the DronePrep Tello jumped at the opportunity.
The Library at Kiplin Hall is exquisite, filled with numerous interesting and historic pieces of furniture, art and ornaments that all once belong to the Talbot family – including one rather special chair that, rumour has it, was on HMS Victory with Lord Nelson – no pressure flying in here then…..
The Tello flight time is up to 13mins, it actually felt like less but with in this beautiful large room with incredible stained glass windows and views over the gardens, grounds and lake, we had such a fun time capturing shots like this:
For my first proper indoor flight I feel very privileged to have had access to such a beautiful location, thank you James & team at Kiplin Hall who are doing an incredible job as custodians of this historic residence.
If you would like to know more about flying your Drone at Kiplin Hall check out The DronePrep Map for details of Drone Access Policy.
You will need to register for Free to access the map.
So, you’ve seen amazing drone imagery online, felt inspired and took the plunge to join the 200,000+ hobbyists in the UK who are actively flying in low-level airspace, or maybe, your on a trip of a lifetime visiting the UK and you’ve brought you’re drone to capture unique UK landscape and to share and document your adventures with everyone back at home.
Now you are about to set out on an incredible adventure and join a merry band of flying pioneers in UK. One of the key things you need to know is how and where you can fly your drone, legally and safely in the UK.
Flying in our little historic Islands is super funbut there are some things about low-level airspace, laws, landowner permission and Drone Registration before you fly to protect you and the public.
UK Drone Laws: Where You Can Fly
When you fly a drone in the UK it is your responsibility to be aware of the rules that are in place to keep everyone safe. If you are taking off from land you do not own you will need to obtain a landowner permission and fly in accordance with the landowners Drone Access Policy
Beyond this: the DroneCode sets out basic rules to follow, to ensure you are flying legally. It is a common sense guide that ensures that flights are conducted away from people, buildings, hazards and flight corridors. Pilots can use the DronePrep map and Location Search to help locate flying areas which are suitable for hobbyists
The DroneCode states:
1: Always keep your drone or model aircraft in direct sight.
2: Never fly more than 400ft (120m) above the surface and stay well away from aircraft, airports, and airfields.
This will help you to avoid colliding with planes, helicopters and other aircraft, which normally fly higher than this.
Always look and listen out for other aircraft that may be flying below 400ft (120m), such as air ambulances and police helicopters.
If you fly where the ground level falls or rises, such as over hills, mountains or cliffs, you’ll need to adjust the height of your drone or model aircraft so that it’s never more than 400ft (120m) from the surface.
Use the DronePrep Map to locate and avoid airfields and examine Ordnance Survey’s relief contours within the DronePrep Map to understand the lye of the land prior to flying a new location.
3: Never fly closer than 50m to people uninvolved in your flight. Overflying people not involved in your flight can be deemed negligent as well as trigger other legal interactions. Overflight is possible if you stick to other DroneCode rules, have landowner permission to fly and if you have informed those involved in your flight prior.
4: Never fly closer than 50m to buildings, cars, trains or boats. Overflying structures or vehicles not involved in your flight can be deemed negligent as well as trigger other legal interactions. Overflight is possible if you stick to other DroneCode rules, have landowner permission to fly and if you have informed asset owners involved in your proposed flight prior.
5: Without further permissions from Civil Aviation Authority and ground permissions it is illegal to fly closer than 150m to a crowd of 1,000 people or more. It is illegal for hobbyists to fly directly over a crowd at any height.
6: Without further permissions from Civil Aviation Authority and/or Local Landowner permissions it is illegal to fly closer than 150m to a built up area. It is illegal for hobbyists to fly directly over a built up area are any height without obtaining additional permissions.
The CAA define examples of built-up areas as the following areas:
cities and towns
beaches and recreational parks that are part of a city, town or village
schools and offices
retail, warehouse, industrial and business parks
Use the DronePrep Map to find spacious locations to fly outside of built up areas and explore privately owned large, hidden, and secure sites (with a site area radius of 200m+) which are nestled inbetween built up areas to see if it is possible to obtain a landowner permission to enjoy your hobby safely in those hard to reach places legally.
7: Without further permissions from Civil Aviation Authority and ground permissions it is illegal to fly in an airport’s flight restriction zone.
All current Flight Restriction Zone (FRZs) can be viewed freely on the DronePrep Map.
has a radius of either two or two and a half nautical miles and then five kilometres by one kilometre zones starting from the point known as the ‘threshold’ at the end of each of the airfield’s runways. Both zones extend upwards to a height of 2,000 feet above the airfield.
It is illegal to fly any drone at any time within these restricted zones unless you have permission from air traffic control at the airport or, if air traffic control is not operational, from the airport itself. If you endanger the safety of an aircraft, you could go to prison for five years.
8: Whether you are new to drones, visiting the UK or an established flyer; as of November 2019 it is illegal to fly a drone or model aircraft between 250g-20kg that does not show a valid operator ID.
Learn more about the CAA’s Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES).