Drone Registration Arrives, New FAA Regulation Raises Fear Of Publicly Searchable Information

Christmas will involve more than just unwrapping and enjoying gifts for new drone owners. A new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation went into effect Tuesday that requires all individuals that own a drone to register them, despite a legal threat from multiple angles and new privacy concerns.

All individuals who own a drone that weighs between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds is expected to register their hobby aircraft(s) with the FAA through a new online form. Each individual registration is good for up to three drones, and owners are required to affix a registration number to the devices.

Registering drones is free for the first 30 days of the new FAA regulation, but will cost $5 per person once the free period has ended. Drone registration does require the individual to provide their name and home address. The registration will have to be renewed after three years.

How the FAA will track and enforce registration is certainly up for debate. The FAA estimates that 1.6 million drones will be sold to hobbyists in 2015, and it’s hard not to come across a Christmas ad flyer that doesn’t feature one of the devices. Time reports police departments don’t have the resources to enforce the rules, but the FAA is still threatening hefty civil penalties of up to $27,500 for unregistered drones.

Drone A Parrot Bebop quadcopter drone flies at the Parrot stand at the 2015 IFA consumer electronics and appliances trade fair on September 4, 2015 in Berlin, Germany [Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]The FAA has been heavily criticized for the drone registration requirement from several different sources. The Hill previously reported the Competitive Enterprise Institute threatened a lawsuit after the agency skipped the usual public comment period, which usually lasts 30 to 60 days, for the new regulation. The FAA skipped the public comment period due to the task force being “composed of 25 to 30 diverse representatives from the [drone] and manned aviation industries, the federal government, and other stakeholders.”

This raised the ire of CEI transportation policy expert Marc Scriber, who said that “As we noted in our November 6 comments in response to the task force’s formation, mere registration will not mitigate aviation safety risks potentially posed by drones.”

“Yet, for the FAA to dispense with notice-and-comment requirements, it will need to show proceeding through the normal rulemaking procedure will endanger public safety… This makes the forthcoming FAA interim final rule unlawful and will almost certainly result in litigation.”

“Further, in requiring that all drones over 250 grams—which includes many harmless toys—the FAA will also be violating Congress’s 2012 prohibition on the regulation of hobbyist small drone use,” he added, before noting Congress prohibited the FAA from regulating model aircraft.

Meanwhile, Forbes contributor John Goglia is reporting the Academy of Model Aeronautics announced to its members that it is exploring legal and political means to stop the drone members. It is also encouraging members to delay registering their model aircraft until a resolution can be determined.

Part of Goglia’s and the AMA’s concern is over whether the personal information stored in the FAA’s drone registration will be publically available. The official FAQ states that only the FAA, the contractor it uses, and law enforcement officers (under certain circumstances) may see the information. However, the Forbes contributor received the following contradictory note that says names and address from the drone registration will eventually be searchable by the public.

“Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address. When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches,” the FAA stated.

Drone Aircraft A drone is flown for recreational purposes in the sky above Old Bethpage, New York on September 5, 2015. [Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]Hundreds of thousands more set to fly on Christmas to join the millions already on the market. The FAA’s main concern is user’s flying drones near airports at heights that result in close calls with manned aircraft. As previously reported by Inquisitr, over 327 close calls were reported between 2013 and 2015, with another 921 incidents of drones being found in the same airspace as manned aircraft during the same period.

FAA rules stipulate that drones should not be flown within five miles of an airport and have a ceiling of 400 feet.

Do you plan to register your drone with the FAA? Sound off in the comments below.

[Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]

[Correction: Typo fixed on the weight range required for drone registration.]