WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just two weeks before thousands of newly-bought drones are unwrapped and operated on Christmas Day, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Monday that owners will have to register their drones. Enforcement actions for not registering a drone can result in civil penalties up to $27,500, criminal fines up to $250,000, and/or imprisonment up to 3 years, according to the new FAA rule.
Registration is a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft. Under the rule, any owner of a small unmanned aircraft (UAS) who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to December 21, 2015, must register no later than February 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after December 21, 2015 must register before the first flight outdoors.
Drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms), including payloads such as on-board cameras, are subject to the registration requirement.
“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.”
Owners may use either the paper-based process or the new streamlined, web-based system. Owners using the new streamlined web-based system must be at least 13 years old to register.
The normal registration fee is $5, but in an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA said in a release that it is waiving this fee for the first 30 days (from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan 20, 2016).
Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and e-mail address. Upon completion of the registration process, the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft.
Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS. The registration is valid for three years.
“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” said FAA Administrator Huerta. “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.”
The online registration system does not yet support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation – for example, using an unmanned aircraft in connection with a business. The FAA said that it is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring of 2016.