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FAA unveils UAS rule, begins drone registry Dec. 21

December 14, 2015  - By

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Dec. 14 an official rule and registration process for hobbyists who own small unmanned aircraft weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras.

The online registration system does not yet support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation — for example, using an unmanned aircraft in connection with a business. The FAA is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring of 2016.

The registration procedure is a statutory requirement that applies to all hobby aircraft. Under this rule, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to Dec. 21, 2015, must register no later than Feb. 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after Dec. 21, 2015, must register before the first flight outdoors.

The Registration Task Force delivered recommendations to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Nov. 21. The rule incorporates many of the task force recommendations, the FAA says.

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” Foxx said in the announcement. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”

Owners may register through a web-based system or paper-based process. There is a $5 registration fee, but the FAA is offering a full rebate for those who register before Jan. 20, 2016.

Under the rule, each aircraft must be marked with a unique number, although not necessarily the serial number. The goal is to help authorities track down an owner if a drone collides with another aircraft, flies too high or encroaches on an airport.

Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and email address. Upon completion of the registration process, the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft.

Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS. The registration is valid for three years.

“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” Huerta said. “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.”