UK drone owners may have to pay annual subscription fee


(Pocket-lint) – The UK’s CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) is in consultation stages of a new move that could mean drone owners will need to pay an annual license fee. 

If the move goes ahead, it will see anyone who owns a drone (or drones) pay £16.50 per year, which some – according to the BBC – think is far too expensive. 

Similar schemes are in place in other countries like Ireland and the US, where the annual fee costs €5 or $5 per year, respectively. In France, registration is free. 

The difference for the UK is that – unlike in Ireland and France – the CAA won’t receive government/taxpayer money from the beginning of October. This – according to Jonathan Nicholson, the assistant director of communications at the Civil Aviation Authority – means it needs to raise the money itself to run all of its services, and continue development. 

In a candid conversation with Pocket-lint, Nicholson confirmed that the plans for introducing a fee would be restricted to drones weighing 250 grams or more, and only apply to owners, not just anyone who happens to fly a drone. So your friends won’t need to pay for simply flying a drone that belongs to you.  

What’s more, it would be a single fee, regardless of whether you own one drone or many of them. The same fee would apply to both commercial drone owners and consumers. 

If 170,000 people register from November 2019 – when UK law states they must – the £16.50 per year cost will be enough to keep the CAA running the services it’s currently obligated to. Those are listed by the CAA as: 

  • IT hosting and security costs
  • CAA personnel and helpdesk
  • Identity verification
  • National education and awareness campaign
  • Costs of  further upgrades to the initial drone registration service.  

When registering from November, users will need to also take an online safety test to ensure they’re up to speed with all the legalities of flying drones in the UK. 

Once registered, it will then create a database of drones in the UK that can help identify all drones going forward, and could allow a Drone ID system in the future that would allow you or authorities to point a phone at a drone in the sky to see who owns it.

In conjunction with this, the UK government is attempting to put in place a system whereby police can deliver on-the-spot fines to anyone unable to show they have registered the drone they’re flying. 

While the charge hasn’t been confirmed yet, it seems somewhat inevitable given the fact that government/taxpayer funding won’t be available to the CAA from 1 October. So if it isn’t £16.50 exactly, there will presumably be some cost involved in registering your drones, which will need to be paid on an annual basis. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on .

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