FAA Releases Drone Registration Rules

Registration for UAVs begin on December 21.

Drone with a camera
Majority of drone owners will be required to register their UAVs.Don McCullough/Creative Commons

I'm contemplating taking a hammer to my toy quadcopter and smashing it to pieces after the FAA on Monday announced new rules requiring most drone owners to register their UAVs in a national database and pay a $5 fee every three years.

It's not that I disagree with the registration requirement. I'm fine with the rule. But the small quadcopter was a Christmas present. I don't fly it much, so I don't see a reason to register it. But since the FAA has announced fines of up to $27,500 for flying an unregistered drone, I don't feel comfortable keeping it either, lest a family member decide to take it outside and crash it into something.

The rule applies to any remotely piloted aircraft weighing between half a pound and 55 pounds, a weight that includes anything attached to the drone such as a camera. The weight limits aren't arbitrary. The FAA actually did testing showing that a UAV heavier than a half pound could have lethal kinetic energy.

The FAA says it will introduce the website for registration at faa.gov/uas/registration on December 21. Registering will be free for the first 30 days. After that period, the fee for each individual drone user will be $5 for a three-year certificate of registration, which applies to multiple aircraft.

The vast majority of drone owners who are required to register their machines under the new rules won't, of course, even though the FAA is waiving the registration fee for the next month. Some will consciously avoid doing so, but most will simply be ignorant of the rule's existence when they open their shiny new quadcopters on Christmas morning and take them out the backyard to fly them.

If the FAA starts levying hefty fines on owners of unregistered drones, that could change in a hurry. I won't have to worry though. My quadcopter will be a heap of mangled plastic by then.