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In this blog post we are going to take a look at the UK CAA's proposals and updates for the Drone and Model Aircraft Education and Registration Scheme (DMARES). A bit of a mouthful AND a ridiculously convoluted system, forcing Drone and Model Aircraft Owners and Pilots in the UK to register themselves and get some 'education' in the process...
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Read time approximately 7 minutes.
The day has arrived and the CAA have FINALLY announced the details of the UK Drone Registration and Education Scheme The DRES… And If it feels like a glitch in the Matrix, then that’s because we’ve been here before… A number of times but this time, with a rather complicated twist or two in the form of it now being the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme (DMARES)!
Let’s dive on in and see how it’s going to affect anyone in the UK who owns and/or operates a drone or controllable model aircraft which weighs more than 250g.
So, for those who weren’t aware that this was coming (which wouldn’t be surprising, given the lack of information and publicity surrounding this so far…), all owners and operators of drones and model aircraft (which the CAA have pretty much grouped together for the purposes of this registration scheme) will need to register as a Drone Operator, complete a 20 question online examination and pay a registration fee.
The community was supposed to be told what the system was going to be by the 16th September 2019, the scheme was supposed to go live on the 1st October 2019 and everyone was supposed to be registered by the 30th November 2019.
As it happened, very little was announced before the 1st October AND, when that date hit, the scheme didn’t go live and we weren’t given any real information as to why…
Fast forward to late yesterday and the CAA FINALLY announced something. A product with a few tweaks and, if I’m honest, quite a confusing method of entry… Or should I say, methods of entry. The scheme goes live on the 5th November 2019 and you cannot access it prior to this date - so for all those of you who are DESPERATE to get on and get registered… You’ve got to wait until then!
Now, the first thing of note is the adjustment to the cost - this is a positive step forward for the community in so much as the cost has come down from the originally suggested £16.50 and is now set at £9… Saving you a whopping £7.50.
Now, whilst this is definitely a move in the right direction - what is the point? Even at £16.50 it was at a level where those who wanted to keep flying would pay it and it would dissuade those who already feel like the space is being overregulated from applying and then flying their aircraft… I don’t know what the logic is behind the reduction but the whole implementation seems like something which would confuse the shit out of any Vulcan looking at it…
The main takeaway here is that any person responsible for the operation of a drone or model aircraft weighing more than 250g will need to register as a drone operator and pay the £9 fee annually.
Anyone who is going to be flying a drone or model aircraft between 250g and 20Kg will, in addition, have to complete the 20 question online examination and register as a Remote Pilot and get a Flyer ID - This element of the DMARES is FREE and has a three year currency… Bear in mind, that the majority of people will probably be flying drones which they operate themselves. In this case, you’ll need to register as a drone operator, pay the £9 annual fee AND complete the FREE examination (which is valid for three years) to register as a Remote Pilot and get a Flyer ID…
In the grand scheme of aviation registration and training, this is actually fairly simple, BUT, I would still question if the entire idea is fit for purpose… It does still seem as though the Department for Transport and the CAA are using a sledgehammer to crack open a very very very small nut with this entire process - particularly given the potential regulatory changes which may come into force in June 2020.
For companies such as ours, where I’m directly responsible for the drones which we own and operate and we have lots of pilots who work for us, flying our drones, it looks like I’ll have to complete the Operator registration, pay the £9 fee and all of our pilots will have to complete the online examination…
How will PfCO Holders be affected?
The CAA are now saying that PfCO holders won’t be required to complete the examination side of things and will only need to complete the registration. So, it’ll still cost you the additional £9 annual fee BUT you won’t need to get 16 questions correct out of 20 - the CAA will provide you with the evidence required to prove that you’ve already got the knowledge… In the form of a formal exemption which, I’m sure, by the time it’s been created, staffed and disseminated to the end-users and the Police, costs more than the £9 fee to implement… Total madness… But there we are! It should be noted that this exemption will only be in place until mid 2020, which is when we’re expecting to adopt the EASA regulations. Another MASSIVE change to the regulatory landscape but the subject of another saga to come, when we’re told what’s actually going to happen!
Are you a member of a trade association or recognised model aircraft association?
Current members of the BMFA, FPVUK, ARPAS, the LAA or the Scottish Aeromodelers Association will be exempt from the requirement to register under the scheme. However, they will have to agree that their relevant association can share their data with the CAA if required by the regulator AND they’ll need to pay the £9 annual fee directly to their association! This will take place by the 31st January 2020 and the CAA will put an exemption in place to cover this mechanism by the 30th November 2019. The CAA have recommended waiting to hear from your association BEFORE you take action one way or another…
So, a little more flesh on the bones of the Operator ID and the Flyer ID… The two main things which the DMARES creates…
Anyone who owns or is responsible for the operation of a drone or model aircraft weighing between 250g and 20Kg MUST register as a Remote Operator and obtain an Operator ID. This costs £9 and is renewed annually… You must be aged 18 or over to register as a Remote Operator.
Your Operator ID must be placed on your model aircraft or drone and be visible if required for inspection. As far as we’re aware, it will be possible to place this ID inside somewhere like a battery bay, so that it isn’t always visible; particularly useful for those people who are flying scale model aircraft.
Anyone who wants to fly or operate a model aircraft or drone in the UK, as of the 30th November will need to pass a 20 question online examination. The pass mark for this is a minimum of 16 correct answers and the learning required for the examination will be contained in a new ‘Drone and Model Aircraft Code’ which forms part of the DMARES. The questions will come from the learning which the CAA provide and even if you fail, you can keep learning the code and attempting it (at no cost). Once you’ve passed the test, you’ll be issued with your Flyer ID.
There are currently no age requirements for the scheme but it should be noted that children under the age of 13 can only register with a parent or guardian present.
So, that pretty much wraps up what we know so far…
Essentially, very little has changed from the original proposals, aside from the fact that it’s now £7.50 cheaper, doesn’t target the people who are going to use the technology for nefarious reasons and will no-doubt create another barrier to entry and cripple the embryonic industry… Without increasing safety or providing anything which we didn’t offer to the government for free when we introduced ICARUS 1 ages ago!
And all this, on top of the fact that the Police forces are less informed about this than the community are and they’re already under-resourced… It’ll be interesting to see how this is approached… Particularly after I had a conversation with a Chief Constable last week, who couldn’t answer my question regarding how they are going to collect evidencial proof regarding the weight of a drone, which they could use in court, to see if someone was above or below the 250g registration cut-off..
Bear in mind that also, that although the launch and implementation dates for the scheme will have slipped backwards by 5 weeks when it goes live on the 5th November, you will still need to ensure that you have done the required registrations and examinations by the same date; the 30th November 2019.
You can find the registration scheme online when it goes live at www.register-drones.caa.co.uk.
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Fly safe and blue skies
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