If flying a drone has been akin to the Wild West, then there’s a new Sheriff in town. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is no longer giving drone operators a free ride through the skies — they’ll have to register if they want to continue to fly. With hundreds (if not thousands) of drones being purchased this holiday season, the FAA seeks to avoid having the skies filled with unregistered drones.
Almost every single drone being made qualifies since the weight minimum is .55 pounds (250 grams) up to 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms), which includes the addition of any on-board camera equipment.
The online drone registration program begins December 21st and will typically cost $5 per registration with all registrations to be completed by February 19th, 2016. Registration consists of providing the operator’s name as well as home and email addresses and will last for 3 years. A certificate is issued with a unique I.D. number, which is to be noted on the drone much in the same way that cars feature a license plate. The FAA believes that their streamlined and user-friendly site will result in wide acceptance, but stresses the minimum age of 13 for using the system to register.
As an incentive, the FAA will provide free registration between the opening date through January 20, 2016. Getting it for free or even paying the standard $5 is a good deal, since not registering risks civil penalties of up to $27,500 or criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and/or 3 years imprisonment.
The online registration rules are for hobbyist and recreational drone operators only at this time, although the FAA plans to do a similar online registration for a wider range of drone operators by the spring of 2016, which includes those using drones for commercial use. At present, those operating drones for business/related purposes must register using a paper form.
“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”
You can register your drone online at: www.faa.gov/uas/registration