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FAA Drone Registration Regulations

Posted by Glen Disque on

The Federal Aviation Administration has stated that drones must be registered beginning December 21 st 2015 with the Federal Government. According to the rule, all aircraft that is operated exclusively as a model aircraft before December 21 st 2015 must be registered with the FAA no later than February 19 th 2016. All other model aircraft purchased (or not used before) December 21 st, 2015 and intended to be used exclusively as a model aircraft must be registered before operation. The FAA suggests that the registration is necessary to ensure the personal accountability of operators especially considering the rapid proliferation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in both the hobby and non-hobby realms.

This is a relatively quick adoption of rules regarding registration to which the FAA explains that under the “Good Cause for Immediate Adoption” rule. Apparently there is a section of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) that authorizes federal agencies to exclude the comment procedures for any rule that for “good cause” would find that those procedures are “impracticable, unnecessary or contrary to the public interest” (wish congress did the same thing for a budget). However, you can find a section where comments are being accepted at for this rule  HERE (click to link).

In addition to the regulations and needing to register your aircraft, our congress has instructed the FAA to “prescribe air traffic regulations on the flight of aircraft (including regulations on safe altitudes”. This would include instructions for navigation, protection and the identification of aircraft, protecting individuals and property on the ground, using the airspace efficiently and preventing any manner of collision. According to the FAA, between 2014 and 2016 over 2.5 million sUAS model aircraft which includes drones and quadcopters will be sold and under operation in the airspace. In 2014 there were 200,000 drones in operation (according to the FAA) and the FAA received 238 reports of potentially unsafe operations. Apparently that, and their estimation of the growth of Drone sales, has led to the immediate adoption of these regulations. Their argument is that the time required to debate the subject as the number of drones increases in the airspace poses too great a risk. Therefore, they are foregoing the comment period and spending $40 million dollars on a streamlined web-based registration system. Remember how well that turned out for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)? I digress. They will, however, still accept comments on how to make the system better (see link above to add your $.02).

To be clear, the idea of “registering your drone” is a bit of a misnomer. If you purchase a drone, you will be registered and given a number. That number will then need to be affixed to all of your unmanned aircraft that weighs over 250grams total weight upon takeoff. So, if you are flying your quadcopter (even those that remain in line of sight) and crash into something/someone or break the law, the registration number will track back to you. The authorities will know where and how to find you.

Here is the requirement:

Small Unmanned Aircraft System Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee Recommendations Summary

Issue Task Force Recommendation
What category of UAS is covered by the registration requirement? UAS that weigh under 55 pounds and above 250 grams maximum takeoff weight, and are operated outdoors in the NAS.
Do owners need to register each individual UAS they own? No. The registration system is owner-based, so each registrant will have a single registration number that covers any and all UAS that the registrant owns.
Is registration required at point-of-purchase? No. Registration is mandatory prior to operation of a UAS in the NAS.
What information is required for the registration process? Name and street address of the registrant are required.

Mailing address, email address, telephone number, and serial number of the aircraft are optional.

Is there a citizenship requirement? No.
Is there a minimum age requirement? Yes. Persons must be 13 years of age to register.
Is there a registration fee? No.
Is the registration system electronic or web-based? The system for entry of information in the database is web-based and also allows for multiple entry points, powered by an API (application programming interface) that will enable custom apps to provide registry information to the database and receive registration numbers and certificates back from the database. Registrats can also modify their information through the web or apps.
How does a UAS owner prove registration? A certificate of registration will be sent to the registrant at the time of registration. The certificate will be sent electronically, unless a paper copy is requested, or unless the traditional aircraft registration process is utilized. The registration certificate will contain the registrants name, FAA-issued registration number, and the FAA registration website that can be used by authorized users to confirm registration information. For registrants who elect to provide the serial numbers of their aircraft to the FAA, the certificate will also contain those serial numbers. Any time a registered UAS is in operation, the operator of that UAS should be prepared to produce the certificate of registration for inspection.
Does the registration number have to be affixed to the aircraft? Yes, unless the registrant chooses to provide the FAA with the aircraft’s serial number. Whether the owner chooses to rely on the serial number or affix the FAA-issued registration number to the aircraft, the marking must be readily accessible and maintained in a condition that is readable and legible upon close visual inspection. Markings enclosed in a compartment, such as a battery compartment, will be considered “readily available” if they can be accessed without the use of tools.

You can download a copy of the regulations by clicking here.

We will continue to provide updates and the regulations change or become more clear. As is stands, this is a regulation that will apply to ANYONE who operates ANY vehicle that flies in the atmosphere weighing between 250grams and 55 pounds. 

As always. Fly safe! (and registered?)

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