Drone Registration – What You Need to Know

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DroneWire  |  December 20, 2015
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The FAA's drone registration scheme has been met with skepticism by some industry analysts, many of whom believe the agency lacks the legal authority to require such a program.

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the creation of a task force for the purpose of advising the federal government on developing a new unmanned aircraft registration system.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA head Michael Huerta introduced members of the group, which included representatives from prominent aviation and drone industry organizations, and explained that a registration system for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) would help to identify operators who fly dangerously close to airports or manned aircraft.

The task force released their findings in late November, and on Monday, December 14, the FAA announced its plan to force nearly all drone operators to register their aircraft.

Key elements of the agency’s UAV registration scheme include:

  • Registration to begin on December 21, with all drone operators expected to register their unmanned aircraft systems by February 19, 2016.

  • Any drone weighing over .55 pounds must be registered.

  • Registration is free for the first 30 days, after which time a fee of $5 will be applied.

  • Failure to register could result in stiff penalties, with fines of up to $27,500 for civil violations, and fines of up to $250,000 and 3 years in prison, for criminal violations.
The FAA’s registration proposal was met with skepticism by some drone industry insiders, and critics of the new program were quick to point out the following:

  • The FAA was forbidden from creating this type of regulatory policy in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA).

  • During the first press conference on drone registration, FAA Director Michael Huerta conceded that this program would not resolve the issue that led to its creation; close calls and sightings by manned aircraft.

  • The FAA’s plan would make failing to register small toys that were not designed to be flown outside of someone’s backyard, a federal felony.

  • The FAA plans to eventually make the registry, which will presumably include the names of children under the age of 18, available to the public.
“My fear is this rule will “delegitimize” the FAA and DOT in the eyes of many drone flyers because instead of the FAA and DOT being seen as the authority, they will be seen as two government agencies not following what Congress told them to do in the APA and not do in Section 336,” said Jonathan Rupprecht, a well-known aviation attorney who has thoroughly dissected the FAA’s registration plan.

For now, the registration program will have no affect on commercial UAV operators who have secured a 333 exemption from the FAA, as their aircraft are already registered through a separate system. The FAA says a future registration system will accommodate both business and consumer users.

On Wednesday, the Academy of Model Aircraft announced a plan to protect its members from “unnecessary and burdensome regulations,” and recommended awaiting further information before registering their aircraft.

For more information, see the FAA’s UAS Registration Q&A page, or visit their registration portal at the following URL:

http://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/

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