Drone Registration 101: If Santa brings you a Drone, the Feds want to know.

Hello FAA, you've been mighty busy.  We blogged earlier this year about a proposed small drone/UAV registration requirement and as of this week, the registration requirements have been (mostly) finalized and they kick-in just in time for the Christmas holiday.  Hooray! 

I may sound sarcastic but drone registration does serve a pretty important purpose.  As we have perviously mentioned, drone interference has become a burdensome issue at airports nationwide.  As a hater of all things air travel, I am sympathetic to the fact that pesky little drones need to be stopped in and around airports and other sensitive facilities so I - already hateful traveler - can get on with my life.  What I didn't anticipate was a final ruling this soon.  The FAA has brought their A-game.  Keep in mind the final rule applies to "small" drones/UAVs which is defined as one weighing less than 55 pounds (so pretty much every drone you can find at Wal-Mart, Target, or Amazon.com).  

As of December 21, 2015, anyone with a new drone that is using it outside for a recreational purpose (a.k.a. like a model aircraft) must register their drone.  As a "Happy Holiday" gift to all the Christmas drone owners, the FAA is waiving the filing fee for the initial 30 days.  After that, its a whopping $5 per drone.  Yes, I said $5.  If you have already been using a small drone prior to December 21st, you have until February 19, 2016 to get it registered; if you get a new drone for Christmas, you must register it BEFORE you take it for a test fly.   Once the drone is registered, you will get a nifty Certificate of Aircraft Registration and a Unique Registration Number that must be placed on the drone.  You will have to renew this certificate every 3 years.  And you have to be 13 years old to register which essentially hints that you should be at least 13 years old to operate a drone.  Sorry preteens.

If the thought of registering your drone is giving you a panic attack, rejoice in the fact that it can be done online.  For the most part, you will need the name of the manufacturer, model name, and serial number for your drone, as well as the basics like the applicant's name, physical address, email address, etc...  Other information may be requested, which brings me to the giant elephant in the blog: What about commercial drones? 

As I have reiterated herehere, here, and here, commercial drone use in FAA airspace is not legal.  Another way to phrase this: flying a drone for a commercial purpose outside is illegal.  Currently,  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued in 2014 on small commercial drones is still proposed meaning it is not yet The Law.  However, the FAA has been offering Section 333 Exemptions for those companies and people who want to use a drone commercially (we talk about this exemption here and here).  

If you have a drone for a commercial purpose, you will need to register it, as well, but that particular database isn't quite up to par.  However, it is estimated by the FAA that commercial drone registration will be required sometime around March 31, 2016.  In other words, now would be a GREAT time to start on your Section 333 Exemption application so come March 31st, you will be ready to register your drone and legally use it. 

You can find the small drone registration here

Other helpful resources can be found here (or you can always call us, of course).