Saying that registration was focused on education more than enforcement, the FAA announced that the drone registration program would be active on Monday, December 21, although the website is still in Beta. The details of the program have been published in a 211 page document here, but they follow reasonably closely with expectations set by the drone registration task force last month.
- All drones weighing between .55 pounds and 55 pounds must be registered.
- Operators over the age of 13 may register themselves; younger operators must have a guardian register.
- The registration will require name, address, email address, and a credit card for identification verification and to process the $5 fee, which will be refunded for registrations that occur during the first 30 days after the December 21 start date.
- Drones purchased prior to December 21, 2015 will have until February 19, 2016 to register; those purchased after December 21 must be registered prior to first flight.
- Registrations will be valid for 3 years.
- Operators will receive a single registration number to mark on all aircraft; there is no limit to the number of aircraft permitted per registration.
The most notable difference from task force recommendations is in the fee – the FAA will charge a $5 fee for registration which will be refunded if drones are registered within the first 30 days of the program. The $5 fee is the same as the cost of registering any aircraft, including large passenger jets. During a question and answer session, FAA administrators admitted that the fee is insufficient to meet the costs of the program but stated that they have been unable to pass legislation to raise registration fees.
The FAA is using a number of different means to get the word out about the registration requirement to consumers, including working with NFL football teams to make announcements during games and working with manufacturers to include educational materials with drones.
The drone registration program was first announced in October. The FAA formed a task force including members of both the drone industry and the airline pilots association to make recommendations, which were delivered at the end of November. The registration program is one response to the expected flood of hobby drones received as gifts during the holiday season.
Owners may register through a web-based system at www.faa.gov/uas/registration.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.