The sudden reversals of the FAA registration program – from required to optional and back again – have caused some confusion among hobby operators. The FAA’s “more information” page states that recreational operators must register drones over .55 pounds “Unless exclusively operated in compliance with Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (Special Rule for Model Aircraft).” That “Special Rule” says that hobby fliers don’t need a Part 107 or registration, according to the registration page, as long as “the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.”
The AMA also requires that members register their aircraft, and provides a registration number. When the registration program was first introduced, the AMA lobbied on behalf of its members to allow the AMA registration in place of the FAA requirement, as both serve the same purpose. But while their efforts are ongoing, the organization says that members should register in both places, marking aircraft with both registration numbers.
“AMA believes that registration makes sense at some level, but has pushed for a more reasonable threshold,”says the organization. “While we address these issues, members will be legally required to comply with the FAA registration requirement.”
The AMA has become a powerful advocate for drone operators in recent years. They’ve been represented on drone advisory committees and have created services and products like the recently introduced drone insurance offering to support small drone operators. They work collaboratively with other drone user organizations like the Drone User Group Network (DUGN) on advocacy issues. Their safety code provides the desired “culture of safety” that the FAA hopes for. While the goal of educating new operators through registration is reasonable, it isn’t AMA members who need to be presented with the basic rules of flight.
But at least for now, they’ll have to put up with it – and with two registration numbers on their aircraft.