The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally taken upon itself to bring some order to the chaos that has arisen with the popularity of aerial drones. The FAA is mandating that all operators of small drones go through a registration process in order to avoid stiff penalties.
Recreational flyers who have taken to the air prior to December 21st, 2015 (the day registration opens) will have until February 19th, 2016 to register. Those who purchase a drone after December 21st, 2015 will have to register before their drone makes its first flight. Operators will be able to register via a streamlined web-based system; and will need to provide identifiable information including name, home address and email address.
“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.”
Once the registration process is complete, the registrant will be given a unique identification number for his or her drone, and that number must be prominently displayed on the aircraft. The registration is valid for three years and the identification number can be used on all of the drones owned by the operator. Registration costs $5, but the FAA is waiving that fee for the first 30 days.
All drones that weigh between 0.55 and 50 pounds must be registered, and failure to do so will result in civil penalties of up to $27,500. Criminal penalties are even stiffer, with fines of up to $250,000 and up to three years in jail.
The FAA is expecting that drones will be a hot ticket item this season, and they want to ensure that troubling incidents involving drones don’t significantly multiply in the new year without some accountability. “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,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.