Earlier this week our friends at the FAA announced regulations enforcing the mandatory registration of nearly all drones, just in time for a holiday season in which hundreds of thousands are expected to be sold. Here's what you need to know...
The Key Points
Any drone weighing 250 grams (roughly half a pound) or more, must be registered with the FAA, either through their current paper-based process or via the new online system
If you get your drone after December 21st and it fits the weight criteria, you must register it before you fly.
For those who already have drones, you have 60 days from December 21st to get your gear registered
Upon registration you'll be given a unique number, which should be marked on your drone
These regulations only apply to recreational users. The FAA is working on a similar system for online registration of commercial drones expected to be ready by spring 2016.
Why has this happened?
Aside from the growing popularity of drones for both commercial and recreational purposes, with the sky more full of drones than ever before it's no surprise that there have been a few controversial incidents. As with many of the best things in life, a small minority have taken things a little too far and the result is heightened regulation. People have been flying them too close to airports, spying on their neighbours and even attaching guns to them. It seems fair to say that the FAA needed to act quickly and do something, as it's generally not a good idea to allow technology to outpace the law. Just how effective these regulations will be in keeping everyone safer remains to be seen.
Anyway, registration opens on December 21st, and your best bet is to go through the web-based system at www.faa.gov/uas/registration. Usually there will be a $5 fee, but for the first 30 days this will be refunded. Happy flying!