FROM THE BLOG

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS (OR, IN PLAIN ENGLISH, “DRONES”)

The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced a rule requiring drone owners to register their UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) by Feb. 19, 2016. Drone owners must register through a website unveiled, yesterday, Dec. 21 2015.

If you, like many of my clients (and friends) are a hobbyist – which is to say that you do not use your UAS for commercial purposes – and your UAS weighs more than 0.55 lbs. (250 g) and less than 55 lbs. (25 kg), you should register here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/. Unmanned aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs. cannot use this registration process and must register using the FAA’s Aircraft Registry process.

The registration fee is $5 per UAS owner, in line with current FAA requirements for registering an aircraft. To encourage registration, the FAA will refund the $5 fee for drones registered in the first thirty (30) days of the site’s availability, through Jan. 20. Registration will cover all of an owner’s drones weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds.

If you use your UAS for commercial purposes, there’s a paper application, but the FAA themselves have indicated that, “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 FAA said the rules are meant to educate drone operators who don’t necessarily realize it may be unsafe to fly a certain way, such as near an airport, while allowing enforcement and easier identification of operators behind reckless drone flights.

To register, a UAS owner must provide his or her name, physical address, email address, and credit card information to process the payment. After registering, operators will receive a certificate of registration with a unique identification number, which the owner must then clearly display on all UAS’s. Registration isn’t required at point-of-sale, but is mandatory before drone operation.

Registration must be renewed every three years, and prior to selling your drone, you should remember to remove your personal registration number.

Civil penalties for violation of these rules could include a fine of up to $27,500, and criminal penalties include a fine of up to $250,000 and three (3) years in jail.