Drone users in the UK must now pass an online theory test and register as an operator for £9 a year, or face a £1,000 fine.
Children or adults wanting to fly a drone or unmanned aircraft such as a model plane weighing at least 250g will have to take the test to show they can do so “safely and legally”.
Those who fail the test or do not register by 30 November will face a fine of up to £1,000 under new regulations from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Dr Rob Hunter, head of flight safety at airline pilots’ union Balpa, said encouraging responsible drone use is “desperately needed to ensure a collision between an aircraft and a drone is avoided”.
He said: “We have been calling for drone registration for some time now as we believe that in the same way that other vehicles – be it those in the air or on the ground – are registered, so should drones.”
Registrants will be given a unique ID which must be displayed on their devices in a process costing £9 which must be renewed each year.
The theory test will have 20 multiple choice questions, with applicants needing 16 correct answers to pass. It can be taken as many times as required.
Drone sightings at Gatwick in December last year caused around 1,000 flights to be cancelled or diverted over 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers in the run-up to Christmas.
A number of other airports have been forced to suspend flights for several hours due to drone activity this year, including Heathrow.
UK Airprox Board figures show there were 125 near-misses between drones and aircraft reported in 2018, up by more than a third from 93 the previous year.
In March, the drone no-fly zone around airports was extended from 1km (0.6 miles) to 5km (3.1 miles).
The platform will also be used to help return lost drones to their owners.
Anyone losing a drone is advised to post their details on the Drones Reunited platform, while anyone who finds one is encouraged to check if it has a registration number and enter the details online.
Jonathan Nicholson, CAA assistant director of communications, said: “The service is about giving something back to the community, helping responsible drone owners and operators to be reunited with lost drones and continue flying.
“Our aim is for the Drones Reunited platform to become an essential service for the drone community – the first port of call for anyone who has lost or found a drone.”
PA contributed to this report
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