You know how the government and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are going through the motions of figuring out a licensing and registration scheme for drone owners? The idea has, up until now, been that everyone with a drone above a certain weight (250g) will need to register their device and pass an online test before they can legally fly them around. Well if the CAA gets its way drone users will also need to pay a £16.50 annual licence fee as well.
This idea is currently in the consultation stage, with the official purpose being that the CAA isn't getting any taxpayer money to fund its drone-licencing operations. £16.50 is quite a bit more than other countries -like France, Ireland, and the US- where the government does hand over money and thus the cost isn't passed onto the public. But hey, at least the online safety test is free to take. Unlike those money-grabbers at the DVSA that make you go to a specialised testing centre to sit at a computer and pay £23 to do your driving theory test.
The fee only applies to drone owners, not necessarily the person who will be flying them, and it's not a per-drone basis. In other words you can have one drone or 100, and you'll still pay the same £16.50 each year. The CAA also says that it's keeping the charge as low as possible, but admits that it may fluctuate from year to year. In case you were wondering, that money will then go towards:
- 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
Obviously a final decision hasn't been made yet, but it is expected by July - ready for drone registration to be implemented by the end of November. That registration will be then be used to create a national database of drones and drone owners, with the hopes that a drone ID system can be developed for authorities to see who owns a drone while it's still in flight. If the drone isn't registered then the government has already been working on granting police powers to confiscate them and issue on-the-spot fines.
If you don't take the test or register your drones, you can end up with a £1,000 fine. Flying too close to an airport, like a complete twat, can land you with up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine.
You can respond to the consultation on the CAA website, and you have until 7th June to make your feelings known. But remember, if you're upset about any of this you just need to blame all the braindead morons who think it's clever to fly drones around airports. [Pocket Lint]