The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally revealed its highly anticipated drone registration requirements on Monday. In reaction to the prediction of up to 1 million new drone sales this holiday season, the FAA assembled a task force of experts on Nov. 23 and opened comments to the public to develop recommendations for creation of a system of registration.
The publicized release by the FAA seems to disregard much of what the task force thoughtfully presented — which has drawn a good amount of criticism from a few major industry groups.
A few key points regarding drone registration are as follows:
- All aircraft between 250 grams and 55 pounds will have to be registered. This includes all remotely controlled model aircraft (not just multirotor “drones”).
- Registration will be live through an online portal starting Dec. 21 and will require a $5.00 fee to be paid. Registrations submitted within the first 30 days will receive a full refund.
- This initial system applies only to recreational use of drones and not commercial use. Each registrant will only need to register once for all of their aircraft and will receive a number to place with each of them.
- Drones purchased before Dec. 21 will have until Feb. 19 to register with the FAA. A Drone purchased after Dec. 21 will require the operator to register before its first flight.
- U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are 13 or older can register for a period of three years and then a renewal will be necessary. A certificate is issued to the registrant, which must be carried with that person whenever operating their aircraft.
- Failure to register an aircraft may result in civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.
The FAA has promoted the creation of this registration system with the intent of increasing accountability and education in the name of safety for our National Airspace System. While this claim and the registration concept look good on the surface, it has yet to be shown how registration truly affects the safety of the skies or how it helps to educate unmanned aircraft operators.
Many have questioned the legality of these new rules as Congress has not explicitly granted the FAA authority to promulgate any new regulation regarding hobbyist use of model aircraft. In fact, a law was passed in 2012 which very specifically states that the FAA cannot create any new rule such as this one. Others have raised legitimate concerns over the privacy of the data collected with the registration system. A searchable online database with the names, addresses, and emails of 13-year-old children doesn’t seem like it belongs in today’s society.
Overall, it seems that accountability for those operating drones is a good thing. If a responsible person registers his drone and accidentally does something he or she shouldn’t do, it’s possible to trace back the equipment to the registered operator and levy sanctions upon them. If an irresponsible person chooses to not register his drone and intentionally do something reckless, then that person would likely never be found or held responsible for their actions. This is an unfortunate system, drawing parallels to the debate around gun control.
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