Operators of unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aircraft systems – also called "drones" – can begin registering their aircrafts Dec. 21, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.
Registration is mandatory for owners of small UAVs weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds including payloads such as on-board cameras. A special web system has been designed for the registration process, though paper registration also is available.
"Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "I'm excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation."
FAA says by law, any owner of a small UAV who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to Dec. 21, 2015, must register no later than Feb. 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAV purchased for use as a model aircraft after Dec. 21, 2015, must register before the first flight outdoors.
Registrants will need to provide their 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 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 registration is valid for three years. The normal registration fee is $5, but in an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA is waiving this fee between Dec. 21, 2015, and Jan. 20, 2016.
"We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season," said FAA Administrator 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."
The rules came about through collaboration between several key players in the UAV industry and industries putting UAVs to use. The task force on registration returned its report Nov. 23, and it was combined with public input to create the proposed registration rules.
Business use and agriculture >>
The online registration system does not yet support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation – for example, using an unmanned aircraft in connection with a business. FAA said it is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring of 2016.
National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said continued action on integrating UAVs into national airspace – with a small UAS rule – is needed.
"UAS have important applications for agriculture, and we need rules and regulations that will put this technology in farmers' hands," he said. "The National Corn Growers Association has taken a leadership role on this issue from the beginning, working with the UAS industry, federal regulators, and others to find a way forward.
"Let's continue to work together on common-sense rules that create a culture of safety and responsibility, while ensuring farmers have the access, tools, and training to take full advantage of UAS technology," he said.
As for farmers who have drones under the tree this holiday season, Bowling encourages quick adoption of FAA's new rules.
"If you're stuffing a stocking with a hobby drone this holiday, take advantage of the free registration window and get it registered," he said.