One of the most popular gifts this holiday season were drones. These little, buzzing pieces of machinery are perfect for novice and expert pilots alike. Just in time for Christmas, however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required that drone registration must be completed before taking flight outdoors. In this article, we’ll review some of the most important aspects of this new policy so you don’t get busted the next time you’re outside spying, oh we meant flying.
Drones are officially known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). As of December 21, 2015, the FAA mandated drone registration for those weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. If you are flying a beast of a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds, you must complete the Aircraft Registry instead. But, really, if you’re flying a drone that large, what’s stopping you from buying a Cessna? Those of you that have owned a drone for a while still need to register with the FAA by February 19. After that date, anyone flying an unregistered drone outside could face criminal charges.
If you’re under 18 and reading this, you may assume that minors don’t have to worry about drone registration, but you’d be wrong. All US residents 13 and older must register their drones. If you’re a parent of a younger pilot, make sure to take care of their registration.
Since we are in the 21st century, the majority of flyers will be able to complete their drone registration electronically. However, some of you who plan to use your drone for another reason besides a hobby will have to fill out a paper registration form and mail it in. Some of those reasons include if you plan to use your drone for commercial purposes, if your gadget weighs more than 55 pounds, or if you want to take it on vacation outside of the US. Just make sure to check with your wife on that last one, though.
If you act quickly (before January 20), the $5 drone registration fee will be refunded. You’ll need to pay by debit or credit card and provide the FAA with your e-mail and mailing address. Once you’ve completed the form, your drone is registered for the next three years. The convenient part is, the drone registration number you receive can be used on all applicable UAS. That number must be visible somewhere on the drone. For example, you may have it engraved or simply use a permanent marker.
Thoughts are mixed in the flying community over whether the required registration is really necessary. The FAA’s website states this requirement is for everyone’s safety, as UAS can potentially cause harm to those of us on the ground. Ensuring every drone has a registration number can help officials track down the pilot in the event of an incident.