If you’re the owner of a drone, you now have to worry about registration for your unmanned hobby craft. Forbes reports that the drone industry has become a $9 billion per year business, with more and more people buying drones every day. They are becoming more technologically advanced, with longer battery life and longer ranges, capable of taking high-resolution photos and video and getting into areas that would otherwise be off-limits. The increasing prevalence and technological prowess of modern drones has made drone registration a hot topic for lawmakers for the last couple of years, with the policy finally being rolled out on December 21.
So, how is the drone registration going to work? The Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) registry is a fully-automated, online registration system that will go live on December 21. Just in time for Christmas, you’ll be able to go online to register your drone. The registration fee is small, just $5.00, and if you complete your drone registration prior to January 20, 2016, the registration fee is refundable.
“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility. Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”
Drone registration becomes mandatory beginning February 21, 2016. If you fail to register your drone by that date, you will be subjecting yourself to fines of up to five figures and even the potential of criminal prosecution under the new law, said Brent Klavon of Aviation System Engineering Company.
Klavon went on to describe to Forbes the trouble the FAA has faced as a result in the surge in popularity of hobby and recreational drones in the United States.
“The FAA has a tremendous challenge with unmanned systems operators. This is a population that knows nothing about aviation, FAA rules or operating in the national airspace system. The word is slowly getting out but it will take this outreach to registrants to make that education happen.”
What aircraft are subject to the new drone registration requirements? The Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System’s regulations stipulate that “unmanned aerial vehicles and model airplanes over 250 grams but below 55 pounds used for hobby or recreational missions” must be registered under the new law. This includes drones and model aircraft that you may have owned for decades; if the craft is being flown and fits the weight requirements, it must be registered.
The new drone registration rules generally don’t apply to “toy” drones intended for children. These models most frequently cost less than $100, are specifically marketed as toys, and don’t meet the minimum weight requirements. If you’re in doubt, it’s always best to double check.
The sweeping new drone registration requirements come during a time when an unprecedented 750,000 drones are estimated to find themselves under Christmas trees in 2015.
While some current drone owners have lamented the newly implemented drone registration legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration has laid out some clear reasons why the new registration rules are needed. First and foremost, with the recent breeches of restricted airspace in the United States (including drones that have successfully flown onto the White House property), the new drone registration requirements will allow authorities to identify drones that violate restricted airspace.
The new drone registration rules also requires drone owners/operators to utilize identifying marks directly onto their drones. This makes it easier for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft division to track no-fly zone violators, something that directly contributes to national security, particularly at a time when more people are flying drones, including drones with high-tech capabilities, than ever before.
In addition to giving the FAA a heightened ability to track security threats, the new drone registration program is set up to provide a comprehensive education to drone operators regarding FAA regulations pertaining to drone usage. In most cases, instances of restricted airspace violations by drones are not nefarious, but rather have to do with the lack of experience of the drone operator. The new drone registration requirements can help to prevent such instances from occurring.
While the government seems to have some pretty solid logic behind their decision to implement drone registration, the reaction from the public has been mixed.
@zenalbatross Maybe you don't have to register your drone if you put a gun on it :P— µB (@voidshaper) December 14, 2015
@aantonop it's a start to a shared airspace. What would you do differently?— ipotato (@Gibson61350) December 15, 2015
If you have further questions about the new drone registration requirements, most of the answers can be found here. If you are giving or expecting to receive a drone this holiday season, or are a current drone owner, going over the new drone registration requirements could save you a lot of trouble in the near future.
[Image Courtesy Of Sean Gallup/Getty Images]