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The UK's Civil Aviation Authority asked drone orgs to email fliers' data in an Excel spreadsheet

Plus: Solution to 250g drone weight limit is 249g drone

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has caved in on its slow-motion disaster of a drone database – by asking flier associations to email it details of their members in a spreadsheet.

Rather than implementing some kind of secure web portal to harvest personal data on British drone fliers, which the CAA is obliged to collect thanks to incoming EU laws, the body has asked associations to send members' data for bulk registration on an "Excel template".

The low-tech revelation came in a CAA email newsletter issued in the name of Sophie O'Sullivan, its head of unmanned systems.

Outlining what drone flier orgs would need to do to get their members registered in bulk with the CAA, the aviation regulator said: "You would need to populate the CAA Excel template of member details in a CAA specified digital format (email field will be required)."

The CAA did not respond to The Register's request for comment. It seems quite strange that the regulator for such a technologically advanced industrial sector couldn't sort out a secure online upload portal instead of relying on emailing Excel spreadsheets full of names, addresses and all the rest of it.

After transport minister Grant Shapps was rumoured to have told the CAA to pull its finger out and stop treating drone fliers as an annoying but lucrative cash cow, the £16.50-per-head registration fee was cut to £9 in the final, published schedule.

"We had some successful negotiations with government last week and were able to recognise existing competency frameworks and reduce the price of the registration," said the CAA in its newsletter, which was issued earlier this week.

It is not yet known whether the database will still cost the £4m that we revealed the CAA was thinking of splurging on it, despite similar government databases for similar numbers of people costing a fraction of that.

The drone registration database is compulsory from 30 November for anyone wanting to fly a drone or model aeroplane that weighs more than 250 grams.

If you don't fancy registering with the state in order to enjoy your peaceful hobby, however, there is a solution from Chinese drone-maker DJI: they've developed a drone weighing precisely 249g so it is not subject to the EU drone laws, which will almost certainly be implemented in the UK regardless of Brexit.

The absurdly low 250g weight limit was adopted by the American Federal Aviation Administration, which locked a bunch of drone industry reps in a room back in 2015 and said they'd be released after three days on condition that they agreed a suitably low weight limit as a basis for future bans and regulations, as drone industry news website SUAS News explained.

DJI's position with its 249g drone seems consistent with its position from 2017 describing the 250g limit as having "flaws". ®

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