If you’re reading this, you more than likely own a drone, know someone who owns one, or are in the market to buy one yourself. And just in case you haven’t heard, there have been some recent developments that have been brought to Uncle Sam’s attention and have incurred a few minor changes that you may or may not know about that directly affects ownership of a drone.
As of January 22, 2016, per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) UAS Registration Q&A1, there are some new rules, regulations and practices that must be followed to keep you lawful when it comes to drones / UAS.
First of all…
For any and all clarification purposes an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and a drone are the same thing when it comes to registration purposes. And all modelers and hobbyists, this applies to your aircrafts as well (even outdoor RC and homemade aircraft). Congress has defined the word “aircraft”2 to include any UAS. So, again all aircrafts must be registered.
Well, if you are currently operating or have operated your UAS before Dec. 21, 2015, you have until February 19, 2016 to register (and it’s coming up fast!). If you made your UAS purchase after Dec. 21, 2015, you must register before you ever operate it outdoors. Registration fee is $5 per aircraft, which is a lot cheaper than if you don’t register. (see below)
So what’s the charge if I don’t comply?
Regulatory sanctions include the FAA hitting you with civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties can include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment up to three years!
Okay, okay, I get the point. How do I register?
First of all, there are two different ways to register, each one based on select criteria. If you use your UAS for hobby or recreational purposes you have the ability to use the online system, quick, easy and provides you with a registration certificate right off the bat (which you are required to have your possession while in flying your aircraft).
However, if you own a manned or unmanned aircraft that’s not strictly for hobby or recreational purposes or if your drone weighs more than 55lbs, you’re demoted to good ol’ fashioned snail mail way. It “takes much longer to complete”3, but the FAA is working on getting it transferred to an online tool later this year.
Be ready to renew every three years for $5.
1 FAA.gov. UAS Registration Q&A. (2016, January 22) Retrieved from https://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/faqs/
2 P. Huerta, Michael. Interpretation Of The Special Rule For Model Aircraft. Washington, DC: Federal Aviation Administration (2014, June 18). Retrieved from https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/model_aircraft_spec_rule.pdf
3 FAA.gov. UAS Registration Q&A. (2016, January 22) Retrieved from https://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/faqs/