Mandatory Drone Registration Will Cost You $5

Beginning Dec. 21 of this year, U.S. federal regulations will require that all unmanned aircraft weighing between .55 and 55 pounds must be officially registered. If you act now, the $5 fee will be refunded during the first month, after which the service will mostly like be unused.

A Registration Task Force was recently put in place consisting of leaders for both the manned aircraft and drone industry. The task force was charged with developing guidelines on how to deal with idiot drone pilots. The Registration Task Force delivered recommendations to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on November 21. This new rule incorporates many of the task force recommendations.

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Registration is now a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft both manned and unmanned including traditional remote control airplanes. Under this rule, any owner of a small unmanned aircraft system (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.

A new “streamlined” web-based registration system is the recommended method for completing the registration. The registrant will then receive a unique identification number that must be visibly placed on the drone. The same ID number can be used for all drones registered to any one individual.

The registration is for hobby use only and does not include drone intended for business use. Owners using the new streamlined web-based system must be at least 13 years old to register their toy. Even though the fee is advertised as free for the first month, users still must enter a credit card number, which will be charged the fee, and then it will later be refunded.

FAA Administrator Huerta thinks that:

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.

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This registration process might be a good step in keeping drone operators accountable for their mischievous unmanned shenanigans, but a “mandatory” system that charges a $5 fee that presents no tangible benefit to the registrant, will simply not get used.

It seems the biggest motivator to encourage registration might be stiff penalties. The FAA has several enforcement options, including civil penalties and criminal penalties of up to three years in jail.

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The rule was released as an “Interim Final Rule,” which means it’s effective immediately upon publication; however, the FAA still will accept comments on the rule and may alter it if warranted.


Chris is a pilot who loves airplanes and cars and his writing has been seen on Jalopnik and Popular Mechanics. Contact him with questions or comments via twitter or email.

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