In recent years, drones have become increasingly popular and are now being used by individuals and companies for various purposes such as photography, surveying, delivery, and more. However, with the widespread adoption of drones, concerns have arisen over safety, security, and privacy issues. To address these concerns, governments worldwide are implementing regulations to govern the use of drones.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the UK’s independent specialist aviation regulator, whose main statutory functions include regulating civil aviation safety, economic regulation, licensing of airlines and air travel organisers, enforcing general consumer protection law and competition law, regulation of aviation security, and licensing of spaceflight activities.

To ensure the safe operation of drones, the UK Government introduced the requirement for registration of equipment between 250 grams and 20 kilograms, and an online safety test for remote drone pilots. Launched in 2018 to improve accountability and risk awareness, the scheme is supplemented with an education service to ensure safe flying, reduce drone incidents and support enforcement against illegal use.

In 2018, the CAA commissioned BJSS to help it develop a new public access digital registration platform, known as the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES), which facilitated the registration and education of drone and model aircraft users.

The Challenge

Two-and-a-half years following the launch of DMARES, which saw the enrolment of almost 500,000 users, BJSS assisted the CAA with transferring the DMARES platform from the retiring GOV.UK PaaS service to Azure.

The UK Government took the decision to decommission the GOV.UK PaaS service, which was set to take place within 18 months, by December 2023, leaving the CAA in the position of needing to find a new hosting solution for DMARES to enable it to continue to support the legal and safety obligations.

The Solution

Following a joint review of hosting options with CAA, BJSS recommended that the optimum solution was to migrate the DMARES platform hosting to Microsoft Azure. Due to the critical path considerations regarding continuity of DMARES availability, the existing platform decommission timescale, and BJSS’ experience and knowledge of undertaking similar migrations, CAA appointed BJSS under its existing contract arrangements to lead and project manage this activity.

Thanks to BJSS’ partnership with Microsoft*, which enabled privileged access to the Azure Migration and Modernisation Program (AMMP), the team was able to conduct a Discovery phase that contributed to the overall migration approach. The AMMP Program provided best practice guidance, resources, and expert assistance to help service providers and customers accelerate their Azure migration and modernisation journey with preferential access to agile funds and resources.

BJSS conducted a thorough Well-Architected Review and developed best practices for setting up the Azure and Azure AD environment, ensuring that the necessary guardrails were in place to support the public service, which holds personal data.

During the following six months, BJSS worked closely with CAA to assist with the migration of the service and all its records, which totalled 5.2 million, to the CAA Azure Estate. The migration was completed with minimal impact on the user base or service.

Throughout this process, the team also identified areas where improvements could be made to support Azure native services. BJSS' unique strengths played a crucial role in completing the project successfully. While the primary focus was on migration, the team didn't want to simply lift and shift the service without looking for opportunities to modernise it. BJSS’ deep knowledge of the service allowed the team to identify and implement these opportunities, resulting in a more modern and efficient service for CAA.

The Outcomes

BJSS' successful project delivery allowed the migration to Azure with just two hours of downtime, ensuring the continuity of the registration service with minimal impact on the user base. The migration of 5.2 million records was completed (a 100% success rate), and throughout the process BJSS identified areas for improvements to support existing Azure services. BJSS' full-stack knowledge, security expertise, and ability to modernise applications played a significant role in delivering a successful project for CAA, resulting in a more modern and efficient service.

Of all the many services on the GOV.UK PaaS, BJSS is proud to have helped CAA be one of the first to migrate.

“BJSS has once again proven its exceptional expertise with their successful migration of CAA's registration service to Azure within a stringent deadline. With the successful migration of all 5.2 million records, BJSS has ensured the education and registration services had minimal down-time for our extensive customer base.”

Ewa Gowers, Product Manager for the Remotely Piloted Air Systems and General Aviation Units, CAA

* BJSS is qualified for multiple Microsoft Solutions Partner designations, including Security, Data & AI, Digital & App Innovation, and Infrastructure, as well as multiple Advanced Specialisations.