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FAA Releases Drone Registration Rule

December 17, 2015 - On Monday, the FAA announced an Interim Final Rule requiring recreational users of small unmanned aircraft (sUAS) to register their aircraft in a national database.  All users who fly sUAS, including model aircraft, weighing more than 250 grams and less than 55 pounds will have to register their aircraft.  Further details on the new registration process include:

  • The FAA has made an online system available for registration.
  • Name, home address, and e-mail address are required information.
  • The registration system will open on December 21, 2015. All sUAS bought or built before that date must be registered by February 19, 2016. All sUAS must be registered before operation.
  • Registration costs $5, but the fee will be waived for those users who register their aircraft within the first 30 days the system is active.
  • Once registered, the user will be given a number and certificate that will apply to all sUAS owned by that user. The registration certificate will last three years, after which it will have to be renewed for $5.
  • A user must always be able to present their registration certificate in either print or electronic format while operating their sUAS.

Of particular note to the many EAA members who also enjoy the hobby of flying model aircraft, the regulation does not discriminate between traditional models and the more contemporary “drones” that prompted the rulemaking. All will need to be registered, over the objections of modeling organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) that have successfully overseen the safe operations of model aircraft for decades. “We recognize the FAA’s goal to maintain safety of the National Airspace System. However, we are disappointed that the AMA recommendation, which would allow AMA members to use their membership numbers for FAA registration, was not written into the rule,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “We believe that idea has merit and we encourage the FAA to continue working with the AMA to institute this provision. Such a plan would allow sUAS users to be in a community where safety education and responsibility are organizational priorities.”

The final rule is the result of a fast-track effort by DOT and FAA to create a “culture of accountability” within the recreational unmanned aircraft community. The effort spawned a DOT-FAA led task force that was comprised of representatives from the tech and retail industries, aviation industry organizations, and pilot unions. The task force created a comprehensive set of recommendations to guide the FAA in the rulemaking process.

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.

Though registration is the responsibility of the user and does not occur at point of sale, it is still mandatory. The FAA stated that failure to register could lead to civil and/or criminal penalties.

EAA remains dedicated to ensuring all manned aircraft have priority over sUAS within the National Airspace System. Additionally, EAA strongly contends that no airspace restrictions for manned aircraft should be created as a result of sUAS integration and no new equipment for manned aircraft should be required outside of existing mandates.

For more information on the FAA’s new sUAS registration rule, visit its Frequently Asked Questions page.

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