The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in 211 pages the registration system for drones that weigh between 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and 55 pounds (25 kilograms), saying the registration website will be live on Dec. 21, 2015.
For those who already own a drone or will own a drone before Dec. 21, 2015, you must register by Feb. 19, 2016. Anyone who becomes a first-time drone owner after Dec. 21, 2015 must register before their first flight outdoors.
The FAA deviated from the task force’s recommendations a bit and will charge a $5 registration fee, no matter how many drones you own. So, essentially, the registration is tied to the owner, not the drone. The registration is valid for three years, and there will be a $5 renewal fee as well.
However, to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA is waiving this fee for the first 30 days (from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan 20, 2016) that the registry is live. You might not be happy with this registration requirement, but why not register early and save $5. Afterall, failure to register a drone can result in civil penalties up to $27,500, and criminal penalties for failure to register can include fines of up to $250,000.
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To register, you’ll need to provide your name, home address and e-mail 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 that must be marked on all of your drones.
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Owners using the registration website must be at least 13 years old to register. Apparently there’s still an old paper-based process you can use to register, but just head over to the registration website and you can register online starting Dec. 21.
“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”
The online registration system does not yet support registration of small drones used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation – for example, using a drone for business purposes. The FAA is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring of 2016.
“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “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.”
Drone registration comes after a report found more than 240 close-call collisions between drones and planes nationwide over the last two years. The FAA defines a near-collision as two aircraft flying within 500 feet of each other. In 51 of the incidents studied, the drone-to-aircraft clearance was 50 feet or less, the report said.
The analysis released Friday by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone found most of the sightings occurred within 5 miles of an airport and at altitudes higher than 400 feet – spaces in which the FAA prohibits drones from flying.
The report is based on an analysis of government records detailing 921 incidents involving drones and manned aircraft between Dec. 17, 2013, and Sept. 12, 2015. Researchers cautioned that it’s hard for pilots to judge their distance from another object when flying at high speeds.