FAA Launches Online Drone Registration

The agency says registration will enable it to work with drone operators to enhance unmanned aircraft safety.
Katie Kuehner-HebertDecember 14, 2015

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has launched a “streamlined and user-friendly” online registration system for drone operators.

The program is intended to help operators comply with federal law effective Dec. 21 that requires registration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Drone operators who fail to register are subject to civil and criminal penalties.

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”

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Under the new rule, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to Dec. 21 must register no later than Feb. 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after Dec. 21 must register before the first flight outdoors.

Operators may use either the paper-based process or the new web-based system. The normal registration fee is $5, but in an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA is waiving the fee until Jan. 20.

For now, Ars Technica reports, “the online system will only deal with hobbyist drone registration. Use of drones for business purposes may have more exacting regulations, and the FAA says it’s working on ‘enhancements’ to allow business-use drones to be registered online by spring 2016.”

Calls for registration have “increased as several drones got uncomfortably close to passenger aircraft at airports, and drones got in the way of some firefighting,” Ars Technica said. “Hundreds of thousands of drones are expected to be sold this holiday season.”

The online program applies only to drones that weigh 55 pounds or less. Bigger aircraft must use the existing paper registration process.