UK Drone Owners Face Fines After CAA Website Crash Before Registration Deadline

The Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) website has crashed while drone owners are trying to register a few hours before the deadline.

Those who were hit by the system crash called the website administrators incompetent as the incident leaves them at risk of paying fines, The Telegraph reported.

Flying of drones has a new law that requires all UK operators to sign up online if their device weights 250 grams and above. The operator must be at least 18 years old to register and has to pay a £9 annual fee.

However, any age could fly a drone given that they have completed the 20-question online quiz, which they can take as many times as they need, and the registration of the device must be under an adult. Moreover, penalties are waiting for all unlicensed operators.

According to CAA, Britain has 130,000 drone operators, but only around 50,000 have registered within the week before the deadline. The remaining operators who failed to register before the deadline, which was on Nov. 30, 2019, are facing £1,000 fine. Meanwhile, in the UK, only 40,000 registrations out of 90,000 estimated drone operators have recorded on the final day before the deadline.

On the other hand, drone operators have complained on Twitter that the CAA’s £4m online system was down the whole Friday morning before the deadline comes. During that time, the operators who are trying to register have encountered this error message: “Sorry, there's a problem with the service. Please try again later. If this has happened while you were taking the theory test, your answers may have been lost.”

“It's nothing short of ridiculous that the site doesn't appear to be able to deal with a very predictable surge in traffic,” says an industry insider. The website was up and running at around noon on the same day.

What causes the new law?

According to a report, in October, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee showed concern that some drone operators might ignore the testing and registration. FPV UK, an unmanned aircraft flying association, agreed to it and described it as “a multi-million-pound waste of time.” Also, research from CAA suggests the scheme is not known to many users, and only 49 percent believe that it is crucial in detecting unsafe drone flying.

n 2018, the UK Airprox Board recorded 125 near-misses between aircraft and drones. Furthermore, in the same year, the UK has experienced a dangerous incident when operators have flown their drones around Gatwick Airport runways, causing 1,000 canceled flights and have stranded more than 140,000 passengers.

Meanwhile, the CAA has extended the limit of drone exclusion area around airport runways from one kilometer to five kilometers. Operators are also not allowed to let their drones fly more than 400 feet around airports.

“UK drone laws are changing, and it's vital that drone users – whether they fly regularly or not – are aware of how the drone registration scheme will affect them,” says Jonathan Nicholson, an executive at the CAA.