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

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 …

  1. sbt Silver badge

    It could cost £4m if they use Excel templates...

    ... but they'll be spending it on data cleansing before being able to load anything useful into (I assume) the central repository. Of course, maybe they'll just keep the spreadsheets on a laptop in a bottom drawer, in a folder on the desktop named "Beware of the leopard".

  2. Alister

    It is not yet known whether the database will still cost the £4m that we revealed the CAA was thinking of splurging on it,

    Nah, they're just going to concatenate all the Excel sheets into one massive one.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      And export to CSV 'cos then you can search it in Word dead easy like.

      1. aberglas

        Excel is a good solution

        There would be at least a few hundred thousand names on the list. Easily handled by Excel.

        Pay a clerk full time to concatenate them together.

        It does not matter if they make mistakes because the data is ultimately useless anyway.

        Much better than spending umpteen million quid on and IT project that does the same thing.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The CAA aren't exactly known for their IT prowess

    When I had to submit a self-certified medical form to them two or three years ago, you had to do it using an arcane Adobe form which was only compatible with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

      Black Helicopters

      Re: The CAA aren't exactly known for their IT prowess

      No, that's the way youhad to do it. Other formats and browsers were used by others.

      That's so they can identify you when you attempt to badmouth them anonymously.

      1. theModge

        Re: The CAA aren't exactly known for their IT prowess that's why I had to use Netscape Navigator to do mine!

        1. defiler

          Re: The CAA aren't exactly known for their IT prowess

          I wondered why I had to download Arachne...

  4. RogP


    Just have to hope that those organisations listed sharing data with the government when gathering their members data,

    1. DontFeedTheTrolls

      Re: GDPR

      So in order to comply with EU legislation, they are breaking EU legislation. Lucky for the CAA we're leaving this European thing and they won't need to comply with EU legislation any more. Except of course for every fucking aircraft, balloon, drone they oversee.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: GDPR

        What, you mean we're going to be a rule-taker? NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Boris and Nigel lied to me *sob*

    2. FrogsAndChips

      Re: GDPR

      The sharing of personal data with government or regulatory bodies doesn't require consent nor notification.

  5. TheProf Silver badge


    In the old days you would have had to send your £9.00 postal order in an envelope, remembering to enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope for the return of your receipt.

    It'd probably be quicker that way and with less chance of your details ending up scattered over the internet.

    1. SkippyBing

      Re: SASE

      If my experience was anything to go by you'd also have to ring them up after a couple of months to ask where your licence was and that yes you had in fact paid the £90 processing fee* so maybe they could do their job. Despite their claim that everything was proceeding correctly my licence mysteriously turned up the next day.

      As the regulator for a high tech industry the CAA seems to be stuck firmly in the 19th Century. It takes them a month to send you the results for multiple-choice exams that are designed to be marked by a Babbage Difference Engine and combined Ocular Reader.

      *Something like that I forget exactly.

      1. dvd

        Re: SASE

        My recollection of the CAA was that they hated private pilots of all types.

  6. wiltshirejohn

    250 grams !!!!

    "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."

    I've flown poxy little chuck gliders heavier than that. Are they going to chase down every aeromodeller in the country ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 250 grams !!!!


      1. aberglas

        250 grams can destroy a 100 ton airliner!

        True! Saw it on TV. Someone looking very serious said that this was very serious.

        Having all drone operators pay 9 quid (which will cost the government some 20 quid to collect!) will make us all safe.

        1. HelpfulJohn

          Re: 250 grams can destroy a 100 ton airliner!

          A quick question for those who bother to read these idiot regulatory thingys: if someone (NOT ME!) is a criminal, intent on doing criminal things with his nifty, new flying robots does he, too, need to give the Gibberment a tenner, his name and address and a description of his intended use of the machines?

          I am quite doubtful that many really naughty types will comply but maybe I'm pessimistic?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sophie O'Sullivan?

    Isn't that who you ask for when you need help when you're being held hostage in the interview room?

    New member of staff who missed the personal safety training 'Sophie O'Sullivan? No, nobody of that name works here. Have a nice day'

  8. Peter Galbavy

    The Australians, last time I renewed my optional "maybe commercial use" registration it was still free. Both getting an ARN (Airman's Ref Number?) and the commercial-drone under 2kg reg was simple and free.

    This may have changed, I need to renew again shortly for a trip over in Jan.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      you mean drone work when you're upside down? Who knew?

  9. smudge

    To email or not to email?

    You would need to populate the CAA Excel template of member details in a CAA specified digital format (email field will be required)."


    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.

    To me that doesn't say that you'll have to email the spreadsheet to them. Maybe there will be a secure portal for uploading the spreadsheet.

    "email field will be required" means that they want an email address for each member in the spreadsheet - not that the spreadsheet has to be emailed.

    1. simonlb

      Re: To email or not to email?

      And having an online portal would allow them to validate your email address when registering - but if their IT prowess is as limited as it sounds, that's probably too difficult for them. As it stands, I can see there will be a lot of people filling in that Excel template with the 'wrong' email address.

  10. S4qFBxkFFg


    If the regulations actually specify a weight of 250g (yes, I know what they mean), how long before some enterprising individual combines their drone massing considerably >250g with a suitably sized set of helium / hydrogen / hot air bags with the final result having a weight of close to 0g, +/- depending on whether it's climbing or descending?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: loophole?

      That's not how "weight" works. To lift a 250g weight using a helium balloon, you need about 42g of helium, so now it weighs 292g (+ a bit for balloon and string). To put it another way, just because it is buoyant in our atmosphere does not mean it has no weight, its just more difficult to measure its weight.

      Yes I know mass != weight, but in common parlance people say weight when they mean mass, and the "weight" they are talking about is specified using units of mass, so whatevz.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: loophole?

        It doesn't matter if you talk about mass or weight. Assuming an object's weight is the force gravity exerts on it (I think that's a reasonable definition even when factoring in the usage of non-technical people) a balloon has weight even if that weight is more than counteracted by buoyancy. (You wouldn't say a boat weighs nothing just because it floats.)

        1. dfsmith

          Re: loophole?

          Weight versus mass matters quite a lot in aviation. I wouldn't want to fly with a pilot who didn't know the difference (tire loading vs resistance to acceleration, etc.).

        2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

          Re: loophole?

          @Francis Boyle - "(You wouldn't say a boat weighs nothing just because it floats.)"

          Of course not - I'd tell you its displacement, not its weight.

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge



      2. HelpfulJohn

        Re: loophole?

        If you want to weigh a buoyant thingy, take it to the Moon, weigh it and multiply by about 6.

        Yes another reason for building bases on Farside.

        "Reason". Not "good reason".

    2. Mark #255

      Re: loophole?

      I realise no-one actually makes it straightforward to actually read the legislation (even the CAA don't link to it), but SI 2018 No 623 does refer properly to drone mass.

      1. tony72

        Re: loophole?

        Hmm, it also includes "any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of their flight" in that mass, scuppering my first thought that a modular drone might provide a loophole. I suppose if you attached stuff to the drone after commencement of flight somehow ...

        1. KarMann Silver badge

          Re: loophole?

          That might explain why, in an email advert I got for the new Mini, it mentions the propeller guard, which is clearly removable, and show it in place in the picture showing it being flown indoors, but all the shots of it outdoors show it without the guard in place. That might not be included in the 249 g. Sneaky.

        2. hammarbtyp

          Re: loophole?

          My kickstarter for 4 drones, each weighing 249g that combine in flight has just been registered

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: loophole?

            Sure that should be five mini lion drones that come together to form one super-bot?

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: loophole?

            >My kickstarter for 4 drones, each weighing 249g that combine in flight has just been registered

            Why limit it to 4; I'd just go straight to swarm mode.

            To help with charging (a swarm), I suggest covering the roof of the car with induction charging mats.

  11. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    able to recognise existing competency frameworks

    The fact CAA bods weren't already aware of these "competency frameworks" reveals their own degree of incompetence in these matters.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: able to recognise existing competency frameworks

      I bet their "unmanned systems" division is also overmanned. Or personned. Skilz to cut & paste from excel don't come cheap you know.

  12. BCF

    "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."

    You WILL still need to register the 249g DJI Mavic Mini in the UK as per the rules: registration required - "Only if camera equipped (not a toys)."

    Toy is defined as a drone designed and built for children to fly, the DJI Mavic Mini is not that.

    1. Jason Bloomberg

      You WILL still need to register the 249g DJI Mavic Mini in the UK as per the rules: registration required - "Only if camera equipped (not a toys)."

      I guess I'd best go and re-read the regs. My 109g drone, which is definitely a toy, with a flight time can be measured in seconds rather than minutes, is fitted with a camera.

      I don't recall any mention of this camera issue when I last visited the site.

  13. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Obligatory xkcd is obligatory.

    1. magickmark

      Bobby Tables

      We all know the story of Little Bobby Tables via xkcd but it now seems he even has his own website!!

      1. stiine Silver badge

        I wouldn't browse to that URL on a dare.

  14. hatti


    But I thought Sophie O'Sullivan was head of marketing though, I could be wrong.

    Perhaps the excel spreadsheet would get heavier when all the data is added, either way it'll never fly.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Confused

      O? Just print it and fold paper planes.

    2. Ochib

      Re: Confused

      Working from Einstein's famous equation, which states that energy and mass are equivalent, and Excel spreadsheet with four-gigabytes of data would be one attogram heaver .

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Confused

      >But I thought Sophie O'Sullivan was head of marketing though, I could be wrong.

      Sophie-Lousie O'Sullivan is Head of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

      I suspect she changed it, so as not to be confused with Sophie O'Sullivan, the rising Irish athletics star.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The links for everyone else...

  16. Richard Crossley

    How does this work?

    Excuse me if this is a silly question, but I don't fly drones or planes.

    Having the registration database tells the CAA who has a drone, but does it tell them when and where it is flying? Do drones have transponders or something now?

    1. SonofRojBlake

      Not a silly question

      "Having the registration database tells the CAA who has a drone"

      Not even that. It tells them who has registered a drone. Given that you can buy all the parts you need to build one online in many separate transactions from separate computers under different user names and delivered to different addresses, there's no way even in principle to establish who HAS a drone. This is strictly security theatre.

      (You coming to the next club night at the Seaview?)

  17. Ochib

    94D.—(1) This article applies to a flight by a small unmanned aircraft only if it has a mass of 250 grams or more without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight.

    So thats 250 grams plus the weight of the battery, as the battery is it's fuel.

    1. A K Stiles


      Technically, the battery is the fuel tank, so probably counts in the 250g. The electrons aren't though so you can have as many of those as you like.

      Running a mini drone with an internal combustion engine (as a mini generator?) and a kilo of methanol? Don't need to worry about that one!

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: fuel?

        The electrolyte in the battery is surely the fuel, the casing is the tank, and the electrodes etc are part of the engine along with the motor, surely?

  18. Test Man

    No Google Forms or Microsoft Forms at the very least? Tut tut!

    1. Emperor Zarg

      I could have knocked something up in SurveyMonkey.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        >I could have knocked something up in SurveyMonkey.

        That thought also crossed my mind, as at least it would guarantee all the submitted data would be transferrable to CAA in a consistent CSV/XML format.

  19. FlippingGerman

    Weighing in

    Do they weigh them on thee ground or in mid-air?

    To be fair, the downdraft ought to give a higher reading than the drone itself.

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