It’s been almost a year since the FAA introduced drone registration just in time for the 2015 holidays. In an almost unprecedented show of speed, the agency formed an advisory committee with industry stakeholders, developed the guidelines, and implemented them: prompting a rush of media coverage in the drone world which varied between high praise and lawsuits claiming that the FAA had acted without following due process.
Since then, despite over a half million drone registrations, the passing of the newest FAA Reauthorization package, the enactment of the Small UAS Rule (Part 107) and the push toward drone integration have captured drone media’s attention: leaving many operators confused about what’s changed with drone registration and new drone enthusiasts in the dark about what drone registration is. Here are 5 things that all operators – both recreational and commercial – should know about drone registration.
#1. Do I still need to register my drone? The answer to that one is a resounding yes, if your drone falls under the category outlined in the rule. (See details below.) The enactment of the Small UAS Rule (Part 107) did not affect the drone registration program. In fact, the FAA says that all aircraft needed to be registered prior to the “new” program, last year’s development simply provided a quick and easy online portal to do so.
#2. What drones need to be registered?
Federal law requires that all aircraft (which includes UAS and radio/remote controlled aircraft) flown outdoors must be registered with the FAA and marked with a registration number. UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds may register online at https://registermyuas.faa.gov/ or by using the legacy paper based registration process. The weight limit includes everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft at the time of takeoff.
If your drone weighs under .55 lbs, you do not need to register (but remember that anything it carries counts toward the weight limit.) If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds you still need to register it, but will have to use a paper process to do so. The FAA has provided this list of examples of aircraft that may or may not need to be registered.
Age is no excuse. Drone operators 13 years or older can register, younger than 13 will need an adult operator to register for them.
Note: Registration only applies to drones flown out of doors. If, for example, you only participate in drone races indoors, or use your drone for fun in your home, you do not need to register under this law. However, if you take it outside at all – including on your own property in your own yard – it needs to be registered.
# 3. Do Commercial Drones Need to be Registered? Yes. Commercial drones also need to be registered, but there are different requirements. While recreational drone operators only need one registration number that can be used on multiple aircraft (see below) commercial operators must register each drone that they fly separately. You can find more details about commercial drone registration on the FAA website here.
#4. What if I Have More than One Drone? What if I Trade My Drone or Loan it to Someone Else? The committee that established the registration program was careful to consider the fact that recreational drone operators often have several drones. In addition, they’re a friendly bunch: hobbyists very often trade or sell their drones to other operators. But think of it this way: your aircraft are registered to you as an operator, so any drone you fly should have your number. If you fly a used drone, put your registration number over the old one. If you loan someone your drone, you need to loan them the registration also – they’ll have to carry your certificate with them, electronically or in paper copy. And keep in mind that you’ll be ultimately responsible for any problems they cause in flight.
#5. Why Do I Have to Register? What’s the Point? You have to register because it is the law; should you run into trouble with your drone and not be able to show your registration (which you are required to have with you at all times when you fly) you may incur further penalties. In addition, registering your drone gives the FAA the opportunity to provide you with links and materials to current regulations and tools – which can keep you out of trouble and ensure that you are flying responsibly. The “Know Before You Fly” program, developed in collaboration with the drone industry, helps explain to new operators what the basic rules are for safe flight and considerate use of the airspace. Finally, it is quick and easy to do: hit the website and fill out the form; it costs $5 and takes about 5 minutes, well worth it to save potential problems later. You need to enter a credit/debit card (for the $5 fee), an email address, and your physical/mailing address. That’s it.
If you’re considering a recreational drone for you or your kids this holiday, you’ll need to make registration a part of the purchase.
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.
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