Surprising Number of FAA Registerers by UAS Users

Quadcopter Zeynel Cebeci/Creative Commons

I'm not sure how many people I expected would actually sign up for the FAA's new UAS registry program that went live just before Christmas. Since the agency is waiving the $5 registration fee for the first month, I figured many would take advantage and fill out the online form.

But I was surprised when the FAA announced yesterday that 181,000 drones have been registered in the database since its launch two weeks ago. That's a fraction of the 700,000 or so quadcopters and other drones that were expected to be sold during the Christmas season, but still it's a lot higher than I figured.

"This is just the beginning," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. "Now that we have set up the registration system, our challenge is to make sure everyone is aware of the requirement and registers."

The FAA unveiled the registry for UAS owners on December 14 and launched the database on December 21. Owners of drones weighing between 0.55 pound (250 grams) and 55 pounds must register and display an FAA registry identification number on their aircraft by February 19 or face the possibility of civil and criminal penalties. The $5 fee must be paid every three years.

The day after Christmas I watched my neighbor and his son walk to their yard with a new and expensive-looking quadcopter. The dad set the craft on the ground and stepped back several feet with remote control in hand. Moments later the little drone leapt into the air and climbed briskly above the trees to a height of what I estimated to be 200 feet.

Just as abruptly, the quadcopter stopped climbing and fell straight down into trees on an adjacent neighbor's property. The whole flight lasted 30 seconds. The father and son soon set off to look for the drone. Fifteen minutes later they returned with no quadcopter.

I wonder if they ever bothered to register it? I guess it doesn't matter now.


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