Drone Owners Must Register Their Unmanned Aircraft Starting Dec. 21

Nearly a month after a task force recommended the Federal Aviation Administration require drone hobbyists to register their unmanned aircraft, the agency has finally solidified a process to keep tabs on the flying devices. 

The FAA announced Monday that it will begin accepting drone registrations on Dec. 21 for devices weighing between 250 grams (0.55 pounds) and 55 pounds that are operated outdoors.

Registration will cost $5, but for the first 30 days (ending Jan. 20) the FAA will waive the fee in order to expedite the process.

Under the system, which was recommended by a task force of drone manufacturers, state regulators, airline pilots, and police in November, individuals who currently own and fly a drone have until Feb. 19 to register with the FAA.

Small unmanned aircraft (UAS) purchased after Dec. 21 must be register before the first flight outdoors, the agency says.

The registration system, which can be completed online or via a paper process, requires owners to provide their name, home address, and e-mail address.

Once registration, which is valid three years, is completed the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft.

Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS, the FAA says. That means whether you have one or 30 drones, you will only have one registration number to cover all the devices.

“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” FAA Administrator Huerta said in a statement. “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.”

The FAA says that the new system does have a few limitations: it currently doesn’t support registration for UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation. The agency is developing additional specifications for commercial drone registration; those rules could be announced as soon as next spring.