FAA Drone Registration Process Begins

Ed Lee
Dec 23, 2015

FAAYou get a drone for Christmas and you want to fly it outdoors right away. Stop!

Before you do, you need to register with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or face the threat of severe penalties. Effective December 21, anyone who owns a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS), also known as a drone, must register with the FAA before they can fly it outdoors. Those who do not register could face civil and criminal penalties. This is all being mandated under the guise of public safety. Registration is free for the first 30 days through a rebate, then $5 after that. Registration is valid for three years. To learn more about the registration process, go to the FAA sUAS registration site. According to the FAA, it expects over 800,000 drones to be sold during this holiday season. Let’s hope the website can handle the impending volume.

The registration requirement applies to drones which weigh 0.55 lbs. (250 grams) to 55 lbs. (25 kilograms). In addition, the registrant must be 13 years or older (a parent can register for anyone younger than 13) and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The registration number is required to be displayed on all aircrafts owned, in case you do something unsafe or lose the drone and the authorities want to track you down.

This process is designed for consumers only. Commercial use of a sUAS still requires filing for an FAA Section 333 exemption. If you are professional photographer looking to add a sUAS to your list of service offerings, you must still go through the petition process.

Good news, though – the FAA has made good progress in reviewing and approving exemptions. As of December 18, the FAA had granted a total of 2,672 exemptions; a huge jump from the 44 total exemptions granted back in March 2015 when they began the process. A quick review of the list of exemptions shows aerial photography, videography, inspection, surveying, and mapping among the most common uses. The industries that are covered are wide and varied and include construction, agriculture, inspection, real estate, insurance, marketing, security, motion pictures, television, rescue, sporting and special events, and news gathering.

InfoTrends’ Opinion

We believe that registration is a good requirement; if only to get recreational flyers to learn about how to fly the drone safely and properly. Most consumers will consider a drone to be a toy to fly around the yard and to take photos or videos of what is happening at the moment. But there will be instances where someone will break the rules and need to be dealt with. The registration program starts off with good intentions but it will need to be monitored and revised as the market and behaviors change so it does not become another bloated bureaucracy.

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