The deadline for drone registration is Friday, February 19, and the FAA is reminding drone owners to comply or face still penalties.
The registration program applies to any drone weighing more than .55 lbs. and less than 55 lbs. that will be flown outdoors for recreational purposes. The registration process is simple and can be completed at FAA.gov. The $5 fee will give the operator a certificate and registration number: all drones must be marked with a registration number and the operator must have the certificate while flying.
The registration program has been debated by all sides. The AMA asked their members to hold off on registration until the last possible moment while they try to negotiate a different program. A lawsuit has been filed against the FAA in protest, questioning the FAA’s right to impose the registration program. Studies have questioned the utility of a program which only provides a means of retaliation after a mishap, but does nothing to prevent one in the first place.
Regardless of the criticism, the FAA claims that the program provides valuable educational opportunities. “Besides being required by law, registration provides an excellent opportunity to educate yourself if you are new to aviation, and it will help you become part of the safety culture that has been the hallmark of traditional aviation for more than a century,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Basic regulations, such as staying more than 5 miles away from airports and under the 400 ft altitude limit are delivered with the certificate.
The FAA reports that over 342,000 people have registered to date. With the agency’s own estimates that over 1,000,000 drones were sold during the holiday season alone, it seems that most operators remain unregistered. Failure to register could be a risky strategy; the consequences include a civil penalty of up to $27,500, criminal fines of up to $250,000, and imprisonment for up to 3 years.