Drone operator registration in the UK
From November 5th 2019 anyone responsible for flying a drone weighing between 250g and 20kg will need to register as an operator.
How much does it cost to register as a drone operator?
It costs £9 every year. You will have to pay this every year. There is no refund for cancelling part way through a year.
Who has to register to fly a drone?
- Anyone responsible for a drone over 250g will have to register as an operator and get an Operator ID
- Anyone flying a drone over 250g will need to pass an online test to get a Flyer ID
- If you want to fly your own drone, you must register as an operator and take the test as a flyer
- If you want to fly someone else’s drone you must pass the test as a flyer
- If you want to let someone else fly your drone, they must pass the flyer test
The “responsible” person is usually the person who owns a drone.
Do children have to register to fly drones?
Yes, it applies to children. If you own a drone you cannot let a child fly it until they have passed the online test. If your child has a drone they must take the flyer test. You must be over 13 to register as a flyer, so parents of children under 13 must register them for the flyer test.
You must be over 18 to register as an operator, so parents will have to register as the operator in order for their child to fly a drone. You can choose to register as a non-flying operator.
Do I have to pass an exam to qualify as a drone operator?
Yes, even for personal hobby use you will have to pass an online test, but don’t worry – you can take it as many times as needed until you pass, it’s free, and it is part of an “education package” that teaches you all the rules you need to know. There are some example questions lower down this page.
How do I register as a drone operator in the UK?
- Register at https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/
- Pay £9 every year
- Complete the education package and pass the free online test
- Re-take the test every 3 years
- Label your drone with your operator number
Which drones are over 250g?
The new Mavic Mini is officially 249g, so you won’t have to register it. Most toy drones that you may have bought for £20 off amazon are going to be less than 250g.
Here are the weights of some popular drones in grams:
|DJI Mavic 2 Pro||907g||Yes|
|DJI Mavic Mini||249g||No|
|DJI Mavic Air||430g||Yes|
|DJI Mavic Pro||734g||Yes|
|DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2||1375g||Yes|
|Parrot Mambo FPV||73g||No|
|Parrot Bebop 2||390g||Yes|
How do I take the drone flyer test?
- Read the Drone and Model Aircraft Code
- Go to https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/individual/register-and-take-test-to-fly
- Click “Start now”
- Enter your email address – You will be sent a verification code which you must enter in order to proceed
- Choose whether you want an Operator ID for £9 or just the Flyer ID for free
- Click “Start the test” – Make sure you have read the Drone and Model Aircraft Code first or you’re just wasting your time
There are 20 multiple choice questions and the pass mark is 16. You have 20 minutes to take the test. It is done online.
You can then pay by credit or debit card. When your payment is complete you will see a screen showing your Flyer ID and Operator ID, along with expiry dates. They will also be sent to the email address you gave.
How hard is the UK drone flyer test?
The questions are multiple choice. They require you to know the rules such as how high you are allowed to fly and distances you must keep away from people when flying. The questions are mostly common sense. If you read the question carefully, read all the possible answers carefully, and pick the answer that makes most sense, you will almost certainly pass first time.
There are no complex questions about how to fly a drone. The questions are only about the rules you should follow and how to stay safe.
Everything you need to know to pass the test is in the Drone and Model Aircraft Code. There are 4 web pages you must read, which will take you about 15 minutes. You should also know the rules about who has to register as a drone operator or flyer.
What are the questions on the UK drone operator test?
Here are some example questions from the UK drone operator and flyer registration test. Many are simple factual questions, and if you have any common sense then the correct answer will be obvious, as long you read the question carefully:
- Why should you keep your drone’s built-in software (firmware) up to date?
- When do you need permission from an airport to fly a drone or model aircraft?
- How could you check if there are any restrictions on whether you can fly at a particular place?
- When must you have insurance for flying your drone or model aircraft?
- Max flies his drone behind a group of tall trees. His drone is out of sight until it comes out the other side. Is this safe?
Some questions will present a scenario – “3 friends go to a field near an airport to fly” – and ask you to choose which “friend” is correct – “Tom says we can fly up to 150m”. “Bill says we have to check if the field is in a restricted zone”. Ignore all the “group of friends” nonsense. This example is simply asking about the rules for flying near airports.
If I have multiple drones how many times to I have to register?
Just once. You use the same Operator ID for all your drones.
How do I label my drone?
It is illegal to fly a drone without a label showing a valid Operator ID
- Label your drone with your Operator ID, not your Flyer ID
- The text must be in block capitals taller than 3mm
- It must secure and safe from damage – saying “it fell off” will get you in a lot of trouble
- It must be visible from the outside, not hidden inside battery compartments
- You use the same Operator ID on all your drones
What can I use to make a label for my drone?
The best way to do this is with a label maker. It will give you clear text that won’t wear off, on a sticky label that won’t fall off. If you write it on by hand or use a label that isn’t sticky enough, you run the risk of breaking the law.
One of the best and cheapest label makers is the Dymo SO883980 which is available on Amazon for around £20 and has a 4.5 star rating from over 1300 reviews.
Another really good option is the Dymo S0717930 which is only around £12, doesn’t need batteries, and embosses characters that should stay visible much longer than printed ones. The characters are 3.7mm high which meets the rules for drone labelling.
There is even a 3D Mini Label Printer for under £9. It doesn’t need batteries and is a very cheap way of meeting the requirements.
Of course, you could spend a bit extra on a much more capable label maker that can be used for all sorts of other things. I personally use the Dymo Plug and Play Label Maker which is around £40 and has different sizes and colours of labels. It can print characters up to 12mm. Plug into USB and the included software launches automatically. Type in your text, choose size and font, click print, and you have a label in seconds. I use it for labelling plugs and switches, plastic storage crates in the garage, containers in the kitchen and so on.
Can I fly professionally if I register as a drone operator?
No, this registration does not allow you to operate a drone for commercial purposes, including wedding or event photography or anything for which you receive payment. If you want to do that you must apply to the CAA for permission to use a drone for commercial purposes.
If I registered as a drone operator, can I fly outside the UK?
No, the UK registration only applies to flying in the UK. In other countries you must check the local laws.
Where can I get insurance for flying a drone?
- https://www.photoguard.co.uk/drone-insurance – As little as £4 per month and including cover being damaged or stolen, even while abroad
What are the regulations for drone flying in the UK?
- https://dronesafe.uk/ is a website produced by the UK CAA and NATS and should be the first place you look for information about flying safely, legally, and responsibly in the UK
- https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/ is the website for registering yourself and contains the Drone and Model Aircraft code
Everything you need to know to pass the test
- Flying responsibly and safely
- Obey the law
- Keep your drone in sight
- Where can you fly
- Never above 400ft / 120m
- More than 50m away from people, including 50m above people
- The above changes to 30m during take-off and landing
- The above does not apply to people with you who are involved in what you are doing, eg friends or family
- More than 50m away from buildings, structures eg cranes and masts, and vehicles of all kinds including trains or boats
- The above does not apply to buildings or vehicles you own or where you have permission from the owner
- More than 150m from built-up or busy areas including towns, villages, beaches, schools, theme parks etc
- Never directly over a built up area
- More than 150m away from crowds of 1000 people or more eg sports events, concerts, marches
- Never above crowds
- Never inside a flight restriction zone near an airport, or restricted airspace around prisons, military bases, or temporary restrictions such as major sporting events or during emergencies like floods
- Always check and obey any flight restrictions – check with your drone app or at the NATS website. If you use a non-official app that doesn’t tell you about and enforce flight restrictions and give you NOTAMs (Notice to airmen), you could end up breaking the law
- Check for local restrictions eg byelaws
- Avoid disturbing animals
- Obey signs restricting flying
- Be safe
- Know what your drone can do. How far can it fly, for how long, how to use “return to home”
- Check battery levels
- Keep software up to date
- Don’t fly in wind, snow, rain, or extreme cold
- Don’t fly after consuming alcohol or drugs or when tired
- Be ready to take action quickly
- Report any dangerous incidents or crashes
- Don’t take payment
- Remember you could be held liable for damage or injury. Consider getting insurance
- Protect privacy
- Any photo or video you take of other people or their property could be covered by GDPR
- Taking photos or video where someone could expect privacy such as their garden is probably breaking data protection laws
- Know the capabilities of your drone’s camera
- Make sure you can be clearly seen
- Tell people before you photograph or film them
- Think carefully before sharing online
- Delete images you don’t need, and store others securely