With all the confusion and rampant discussions from the hobbyist drone industry these past few weeks, on the announcement of the FAA’s recent drone registry requirements, I’d like to try to provide some information and walk you through the typical process that takes only about 5 minutes to complete online.
Starting today, December 21, 2015, the FAA requires registration of personal drones or sUAS (small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) for both recreational and commercial use. Commercial use will still need to file for the Section 333 Exemption process, but all hobbyists flying outdoors with anything larger than .55 lbs (250 gr) will need to comply, according to the FAA. They have extended a rebate period of 30 days for anyone who put a drone into service prior to todays’ date so your $5 fee will refunded after January 21, 2016 and the cutoff date to register is February 19, 2016.
How Do I Need to Register My Drone?
First, let’s address when you are required by the FAA to register – then we’ll get into the semantics of what folks are discussing in the groups and forums.
Size and weight: .55 lbs/9.0 oz. / 250 gr and over, whether it’s an RC toy drone, helicopter, plane, dirigible or other powered balloon or unmanned flying craft, for recreational or hobby use, requires the owner/operator to register themselves as a pilot through the FAA’s online registration portal.
Not sure if your new toy drone meets the requirements and don’t have a scale? This is the FAA’s answer on their UAS Registration Q&A page:
Q. If I don’t have a scale and my drone doesn’t appear on the list is there another method to tell how much it weighs?
A. Two sticks of butter weigh 0.5lbs.
As funny as that sounds, it’s pretty close. So most of the smaller indoor-style toy drones will be fine but something like the Parrot AR or Bebop drones are almost double the weight (with battery installed), as are most of the FPV racing quads. And of course, most all the camera drones such as the DJI Phantom 3 or the 3DR Solo are over 2 lbs. so you will need to register if you’re flying those.
Note that you’re not actually registering each drone, rather you are registering yourself as the owner/operator so you’re taking responsibility as an RC pilot. You will be required to fix your registration number on all the qualifying drones that you fly to comply with the registration.
There are a host of other requirements and restrictions that you can learn more about from the FAA’s UAS Registration Q&A page, as we won’t be going through that entire list here.
The AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) has told their members to hold off on registering with the FAA as they work on getting a pass on this registration process for their membership. Since the AMA was part of the initial FAA task force to incorporate these new rules, they feel the FAA ignored their plea to allow existing AMA members to use their registration numbers as identification without being added to the public database with the government agency.
That raises concern in the drone community as well because the registration data (including names and home addresses) will become part of the public record and easily accessible online. Also some concerns raised by John Goglia, former NTSB member wrote on Forbes regarding the misleading information from the FAA to law enforcement, has brought a halt to the community’s support for this registration process.
Let’s look at the steps for registering your recreational use drones that do qualify.
The Registration Process Step-by-Step:
The first step is to go to the FAA sUAS Registration Service page.
Then complete the online forms, starting with creating an account:
Once you receive the email notification, click the link to continue on the FAA registration site and agree to the disclaimer.
Complete your profile with the required fields:
…and agree to not be an idiot with your drone: 🙂
Add your payment information for the $5 registration fee (that will be refunded after the January 21, 2016 grace period):
Once your credit card payment is processed you will get a verification window and an email will be sent with your new card:
Once you receive your verification email and registration number, be sure to add it to your qualified drones per the instructions.
Again, this process is easy to complete and it’s up to the individual whether they wish to comply and register or follow others’ suggestions for alternative actions. It’s not my place to recommend anything at this time, as you can see that by my examples above, I’ve completed my registration.
Note that I’m also a Section 333 Exemption holder and my information is already in the public database – this registration is ONLY for my recreational use drones and not those registered under my COA with the 333.