Home NEWS Model plane flyers call for exemption from drone registration scheme 

Model plane flyers call for exemption from drone registration scheme 

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Model airplane clubs are losing thousands of members as hobby Spitfire flyers have called on the Government for exemptions from new drone rules.

The British Model Flying Association (BMFA) told the Sunday Telegraph it had lost more than 2,000 members in the last year, after it was announced they would have to register and take tests as part of incoming drone regulations.

Hobbyists who fly remote-control replicas of Spitfires, WW1 biplanes and Tornado jets could be fined up to £1,000 if they break the rules, which come into force on November 30.

From then, all unmanned aircraft weighing between 250g and 20kg will have to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for an annual fee of £9.

Pilots of all ages will also have to pass a theory test to demonstrate they can fly “legally and safely” before they get behind the controls.

The BMFA, the UK’s largest model flying association which was founded in 1922, said it wanted the Government to exempt model planes from the scheme to protect the sport.

David Phipps, CEO of the BMFA, said the association did not object in principle to being part of some form of registration scheme, but described having to take a test and pay an annual fee as “disproportionate”.

He said: “It seems completely ridiculous that they are regulating the safest form or aviation with a sledgehammer. 

“Since I have been here, since 2003, we have maintained a steady number of 35-36,000 members. We have lost 2,000 this year and expect we will lose significantly more next year as a direct result of this. 

“You raise the threshold for participation and people decide they are not going to bother.”

The new scheme, called the Drone Registration and Education Scheme, aims to crackdown on rogue and malicious use of drones, which have exploded in popularity in recent years.

Last December, flights were grounded at Gatwick Airport for three days after multiple sightings of drones in its airspace.

BMFA members are exempt from the requirement to register their model aircraft with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) until the point they renew their membership in 2020.

Under existing laws, model aircraft and drone pilots must fly in a safe manner and keep their devices in direct sight at all times.

It is also illegal to fly them within three miles of an airport or above 400ft.

Pilots who flout the height and airport boundary restrictions or fly negligently could face an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

The CAA said that it had reduced the original proposed fee for the scheme from £16.50 to £9 after consultation with members of the drone and model flying community.

A spokesman for the CAA said: “Following a public consultation, the Government decided to implement a registration system in 2018 and include model aircraft and many other countries around the world are also taking similar steps.  

“We have worked closely with the British Model Flying Association and other model and drone associations to make the new registration system as easy and affordable as possible. Model fliers and drone operators with existing safety assessments from their associations do not have to take the new education test. “The £9 fee that pays for the upkeep of the registration system will be collected by the associations, so their members do not need to directly register with the CAA.”

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