If you fly, or plan to fly a model aircraft there is now a mandatory drone registration scheme from the CAA.
Drone registration is in two parts:
- Operator ID – The person responsible for the aircraft (ownership, maintenance etc)
- Flyer ID – The pilot
The first thing to consider is the mass of the aircraft, If it is below 250g in full flying rig (which means battery and camera fitted etc.) there is NO NEED to register. Above this and the aircraft MUST be registered before it can be flown outside.
There are some special conditions that apply if you are a member of a model flying club, and the club will advise you. If you are flying alone it is down to you to register. This applies whether it is an aeroplane, glider, helicopter, or drone.
Drone registration is simple. Read the rules, ie The Drone Code. Take a simple ten-minute online test, pass rate is 16/20. Pay the fee, currently £9, and the CAA will issue you with the Operator ID and Flyer ID immediately the test is finished.
Place a sticker on the aircraft with the Operator ID on it, make sure that you have your Flyer ID with you whenever you are flying, and you are done.
Flying without drone registration leaves you liable to a possible £1000 fine (and prison in extreme cases), and you have to consider if the risk is worth it. For me, even holding a commercial permission for drones (PfCO), and proven knowledge and flying ability it was well worth £9.
Also consider that a Police officer now has the authority to instruct you to land the aircraft and inspect it and you for registration. They do NOT have the power to take control of the aircraft during flight, nor can they unduly distract you whilst flying or landing.
Currently, there is no legal requirement in the UK for a hobbiest to have insurance to fly model aircraft. And, until something goes wrong, you may wonder if it’s worth having. The simple answer is yes.
If you fly as a member of a model club there will almost certainly be insurance cover included in your membership. Check with the club secretary. If you fly independently you should consider insurance for the following reasons:
- when flying an aeroplane and the engine cuts out it may, or may not have gliding capability, but do you know how to fly ‘dead-stick’?
- If flying a typical quad drone and an engine packs up the aircraft WILL NOT continue to fly.
- should a part fall off, or fail on an aeroplane (I have seen rudders fail, and elevators fall off in flight) the aircraft is likely to be uncontrollable.
- If radio communication fails you may experience a fly-away (A pilot in America was recently fined US$20,000 because his drone flew away and landed next to an active runway in Las Vegas).
- Military and emergency services are allowed to fly, at relatively high speed through airspace regularly used by modellers. Could you avoid them?
Fortunately there are a number of companies that provide insurance, either on a Pay-As-You-Fly basis, or continuous cover. Some also offer damage repair/replacement cover for your aircraft, insurance in transit, and even international cover.
Have a look at the DroneSafe website. Spend half-an-hour to Gen-up on the Drone Code, take the test and fly without concern.
Carry your Flyer ID with you whenever flying
Print a copy of the Drone Code and keep it with your aircraft
Get yourself some insurance cover:
Fly safe and, if possible, take an observer as a second pair of eyes.