FAA Releases Interim Rule for Drone Registration

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Owners of many small unmanned aerial systems (“sUAS” or “drones”) and model airplanes will have to register them with the government. The Federal Aviation Administration announced the requirement in an interim final rule on December 14.

The FAA touts the new regulation as providing “an alternative, streamlined and simple web-based aircraft registration process for sUAS…to facilitate compliance with the statutory requirement that all aircraft register prior to operation.”  That’s right: under federal law, even small recreational drones are considered to be “aircraft” and must be registered with the government. To reinforce that point, the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx noted in a press release statement: “Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility.”

On December 14, 2015, the FAA published its interim final rule for registration regulations for small recreational unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or “drones”, largely adopting the UAS Registration Task Force’s recommendations that were released on November 21, 2015. The new FAA regulations became effective on December 21, 2015.  One difference between the recommended and final regulations is the addition of a $ 5.00 registration fee. The FAA has posted helpful information and instructions on the registration process here.

Registration opened on December 21, 2015, and the $5.00 fee was waived through January 20, 2016 to encourage early compliance. The registration requirement is retroactive, so for those who operated a small drone for hobby or recreation prior to December 21, 2015, the deadline to register is February 19, 2016. For those drones purchased after December 21, 2015, registration must be completed before flying it outdoors. According to the new regulations, affected drone owners will be required to provide their name, address and email address, either electronically or by paper submission. Once the registration is received, the FAA will send the owner a “Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership”, including an identification number, which will be required to be legibly placed on the drones.

Per the FAA website, failing to register could result in civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties including fines up to $250,000 and up to three years imprisonment.

For those who are interested in the nitty-gritty details, the full 211-page interim final rule can be viewed here.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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