CAA Drone Registration – Response

There’s been a lot of kneejerking to the CAA’s proposal to charge £16.50 per year for registration of drones. As a PfCO holder we’re actually OK with the requirement to register your drones.
Applying this to hobbyists with all aircraft >250g we hope it will result in:

  • Encouraging sensibility and responsibility in people’s enjoyment of these incredible aircraft
  • Reducing instances of irresponsible & dangerous flying
  • Reducing the amount of unlicensed cowboy operators
  • Increasing hobbyist awareness of what is and is not acceptable in flying your drone

Some of the criticism aired has been the requirement of the registered operator to be 18 or over. Given the consequences of a crash or damaging property etc then it makes sense that the legal responsibility lies with an adult. In familial cases this will be a parent or guardian if their child is flying the drone. What results is a great opportunity for parents to understand the significance and consequences of their child flying in an irresponsibly or dangerously. Furthermore it’s also a great chance to learn something together as family.

Another of the common criticisms is that the CAA are projecting £2m costs to run a simple database. This is simply untrue. Once again the devil is in the detail. Legal obligations cost money, national public awareness programs costs money. A national program of any kind requires money. The consultation paper spells out the risk balance the CAA are taking financially. Furthermore it also details what may well happen in case their calculations are significantly different from what happens.

Could be worse though, hobbyists could be required to write their own Ops Manuals!

We read the CAA’s proposal document, CAP 1775 (click here to view) and then lodged our response with them. Here was our process:

Step 1 – RTFM

This is important to do, read the effing manual, in this case CAP 1775. This gives the detail behind the headlines oft absent from online discourse. Reading the source material also silences, in our opinion, a lot of the noise generated on social media. Empty vessels make the most noise.

Step 2 – Answer the questions

Question 1 – What is your view on the CAA’s proposed charge (£16.50 per annum), in terms of the level and structure of the charge

Having read the document it seems perfectly acceptable given the methodology, legal restrictions and the proposed future scope of the service to levy such a charge. Our view is that it’s reasonable in the light of apparent absence of solid datasets and the proposal that future charges will be reduced if there has been an underestimation of registration rates.

Perhaps the proposed annual renewal could be automatic – like the AA for example – and an alert email can be sent to the registered party in advance of renewal. Other options do include longer “licence” periods, maybe 2 years. Monthly payment options could be an option?

Will you publish the workings behind the headline numbers for public scrutiny in light of the social media criticism your current proposal has generated?

Question 2 – Do you have alternative ideas about how the CAA could cover the costs of running the registration scheme

Yes. 2 main alternatives spring to mind but we cannot comment on how feasible they are:

1: Incorporate the charge at point of sale – this also provide an opportunity for the registration to be completed at point of sale

2: Recoup operating costs from fines levied on those found to be in breach of the registration scheme or other related offences. This would require application of legislation in a somewhat more vigorous than at present. We accept that this may not actually be cost-effective upon initial investigation of this option.

PS – How feasible is it to provide an A4 (probably A5) sheet of suitably small pre-printed CAA stickers with their unique registration number for people to attach to their aircraft once they register?

Question 3 – Are the CAA’s estimated volumes appropriate for the make-up of drone operators in the UK, based on existing sources of data and your own observation?

Yes. Seems reasonable given the apparent paucity of solid data to work with. 2 points never make a good graph but if that’s all the available data then you have to go with what you have.

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