The last few years have had an exponential growth in the number of drones flying in the sky for both professional and recreational use.
The massive scale of the drone revolution is only beginning because some estimates indicate that as many as 700,000 drones could be sold in 2016 alone and it`s these kinds of statistics that have the government worried because there have been reports of pilots seeing drones too close to airplanes as well as privacy concerns regarding where drones can be allowed to fly.
These concerns are why the FAA launched a drone registration website on 21st December 2015 to enable easy registration of all unmanned aerial vehicles weighing between 0.55 to 55 pounds.
FAA rules and regulations
The first aspect of the new FAA drone regulations that is most noticeable is the 0.55-pound threshold because it begs
the questions as to how the FAA came up with the number. The FAA concluded that small drones with low capabilities commonly used by children for recreational purposes cost less than $100 and weigh less than 250g.
The FAA, therefore, thought it best to try and avoid creating unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that could make buying a small drone burdensome. On the other end of the weight, the spectrum is the threshold of a maximum 55 pounds above which a drone owner must register through the ordinary paper process.
Online registration of a recreational drone is quite affordable because it costs a mere $5 for a three-year license which can be paid using a credit or debit card and requires a physical mailing address.
Drones used for professional economic purposes for example event photography are required to register with the FAA using the ordinary paper registration system.
A bit of good news for owners with multiple drones is that multiple registrations for each drone are not necessary as long as all relevant identification information for each specific drone is presented to the FAA.
Once registration of a drone is complete the FAA gives an owner a unique registration number that kind of functions like a vehicle license plate. The FAA requires that unique number to be placed on the drone either through engraving or permanent marker.
Due to the concerns issued by some owners regarding the aesthetic problems created by a visible identification number, the FAA has displayed leniency by allowing the identification number of a drone to be placed in the battery compartment as long as it does not require any special mechanism to open it.
All registered owners receive a certificate from the FAA and are legally required to carry it any time flying the drone outside either in physical paper form or a more convenient digital form on mobile.
The certificate has the name of an owner, registration identifier, and date of expiration. Any individual flying a borrowed drone is still legally required to have a copy of the owner’s certificate.
The FAA is trying to create a drone culture of accountability and responsible ownership and so there are strict penalties for flying a drone without a license which can be as high as $27,500 and if the drone is involved in an accident injuring a human being then the fine can be as high as quarter of a million dollars.
It would be a logistical impossibility for the FAA to attempt locating every single unregistered drone but it is much safer for someone to simply register a drone than to take the unnecessary legal risk of flying an unregistered drone.