Drone registration and education service alpha assessment report

Government Digital Service

February 13
11:13 2020

From: Government Digital Service
Assessment date: 11/04/2019
Stage: Alpha assessment
Result: Met
Service provider: Civil Aviation Authority

Service description

The Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2018 amendment includes new regulations designed to improve air safety in the UK in relation to small unmanned aircraft. These aircraft are commonly known as small drones.

Among the new regulations are two new key requirements related to drones:

  • any person (including individuals and organisations) that is responsible for a drone must register with the CAA
  • anyone, of any age, who wishes to fly a drone must first prove their competency to the CAA

The intention is that these measures will:

  • reduce drone incidents and the risk of them
  • improve accountability and risk awareness among drone users
  • support enforcement actions against illegal drone use
  • reduce privacy risks associated with drone use

To meet these objectives, our user research has shown that the Drone Registration and Education Service should include:

  • an education service to help users understand and become aware of the rules
  • a method of establishing users competency (which may include a test or other method)
  • a registration service that enables users to register with CAA that they are responsible for a drone

What counts as a drone

In simple terms, a drone is any aircraft that is controlled remotely. The relatively recent wider availability of quadcopters has seen the term drone become most commonly associated with those aircraft. However, the legislation applies to all remotely controlled aircraft, including model aircraft, model gliders and model helicopters. This is an important distinction for understanding the service users.

Service users

We have identified eight broad groups of service users:

Drone enthusiasts

Proficient and engaged drone users who frequently go out flying. Their main interest is in the flying of drones whether for money, racing, or fun. They are working age, digitally and technologically proficient, and engage with each other and the community both digitally and face to face. They are overwhelmingly male.

Model aircraft flyers

Proficient and engaged model aircraft flyers who regularly go out flying. They are generally well trained in how to fly safely. These users fly as a hobby with a social element where they get to engage with like-minded people. They primarily engage with other users in person at club meet-ups. They are less digitally aware, overwhelmingly male and of an older demographic.

Disengaged drone owners

Rarely fly their drones. When they do fly, it is primarily for associated interests, such as photography. Sometimes they will fly commercially; sometimes personally. They are a mix of ages and gender and are of a wealthier socio-economic bracket. Generally, they do not engage with other users.

People seriously considering getting a drone

These users take a measured approach to getting a drone, and thoroughly research the complexities and costs involved based on a respect for the complexity of engaging in the hobby (drones can be expensive and an investment to become proficient in.) They are generally of working age. They will be considering drones out of an interest in going flying, the technology involved, or in relation to another hobby, such as photography. They differ from people who are disengaged with drones in that they invest time in learning about the hobby from other sources generally found online.

Impromptu fliers

This group of users have never used a drone before but have had the chance to fly. For example, they may have:

  • borrowed a drone from a friend
  • been given an unexpected opportunity to fly a drone
  • made an unplanned purchase of a drone
  • been given a drone as a gift

They likely form the largest group of potential users.

People responsible for an aircraft that will be used by others

People in this group are responsible for looking after drones and making sure that anyone flying the drone is responsible for and meets the competency requirement. This group includes people like parents, teachers, and managers. It includes people of all working age demographics. They may not fly a drone themselves.

Under 18s (sub-group)

These users are a sub-group of any of the other groups (other than People responsible for a drone that will be used by others). They will only fly drones: the regulations mean they cannot be registered as responsible for a drone. They fly drones as a social activity. They include some of the best drone flyers in the world the current world champion is 12 years old! They are digitally competent and familiar with online learning.


Responsible for checking someone elses drone registration status and/or competency to fly. They include people such as: insurers, police and law enforcers, event organisers, clients of drone companies and employers of drone users. Their single need is to verify that a third party meets any legal requirements in relation to drones for example, in order to make sure that the verifiers own insurance is valid or that they have the relevant permissions.

1. Understand user needs


The team met point 1 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team has amended their personas so that they were less task oriented and more focussed on motivations and behaviours. From 170+ sub user needs they walked us through the core personas they have developed. These have helped the team communicate with their designers and development team more effectively
  • the team have particularly focussed on new users in the 4 weeks since last assessment, and used that learning to continue to inform their service. This focus has helped them to iterate their personas and think more about how new users come into the service
  • the team talked more about their focus on accessibility since the start of alpha - theyve managed to engage with 2 users per sprint that have specific access needs, including people with dyslexia and with arthritis that affects their ability to hold the equipment. They have been discussing whether a practice test would be useful for some users, and we discussed in the assessment how this might be helpful where tests result in anxiety for some users. The team understands that modellers have lowest digital capability and are looking at ways to support them to use the service, perhaps by building the capability of communities to support each other to use the digital and other channels

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • the team needs to do a large amount of research on the educational part of the service in the next phase. They still need to understand the optimal number and type of questions in the test. This includes looking into the comprehensibility of the questions to ensure that passing the test actually means that users understand the questions and their answers - the user researcher outlined the teams plans for testing this in the next quarter, and understood that certain personas may require different, or additional information
  • the team should also continue to look into the idea of a practice test and assess the added value this would bring for certain users
  • the team should continue to look into and test different routes into the service for new users, particularly in terms of an alternative for where users havent read the leaflet that accompanies their drone. This may vary per user group, so this needs to be thoroughly tested given the implications for insurance

2. Do ongoing user research


The team met point 2 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team have a clear idea of what their private beta will look like, which includes a substantial amount of research around both elements of the service and well as continuing to look at the recommendations made in the previous assessment
  • the team have used their updated personas well to inform their alpha work and plans for beta. For example they mentioned that they plan to develop and test four potential landing pages for different user groups tailored to their needs and characteristics
  • the team have been looking at the branding f

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