Friday, December 30, 2016

FAA Passes Milestone Date for Drone Registration

The Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA")  has just celebrated a milestone date in the regulatory history of small UAS.  It has been one year since the FAA’s  web-based drone registration system went online.  As of December 21, 2015, the FAA required all owners of model aircraft, small unmanned aircraft, otherwise known as "drones", or other remote controlled  aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to register online before taking to the skies.

The online registration rules  require drone owners thirteen (13) years and older to submit their name, email and home address to receive a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership. This Certificate  includes a unique identification number owners must affix to any drone they own and operate exclusively for recreation.

The FAA has reported that, during the last year, the system has registered more than 616,000 owners and individual drones.

The FAA stated that the rule and the registration system were primarily aimed at the thousands of drone hobbyists who had little or no experience with the U.S. aviation system. The agency saw registration as an excellent way to give them a sense of responsibility and accountability for their actions as the agency incorporates drones into the National Airspace System.   

The FAA developed the web-based registration system to make the process easier for first-time users compared with the traditional paper-based “N-number” registration system which is still utilized for aircraft in excess of 55 pounds.  Then and now, hobbyists pay a $5.00 fee and receive a single identification number for all the drones they own.

Registration is valid for three years. Once registered, owners are  able to access the registration website to update the information provided to register the aircraft as well as cancel registration as circumstances require (e.g., aircraft destruction, transfer, sale, change in owner eligibility to register).

The web-based UAS registration database is not searchable by the public at this time.  The FAA and the FAA contractor who maintain the website and database are able to see the data that a registrant enters, but no  member of the public can access that personal information.  Under certain circumstances, law enforcement officers might also be able to see the data.

Failure to register an aircraft can result in civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties for failure to register can include fines of up to $250,000 under 18 U.S.C. 3571 and/or imprisonment up to three years.

Happy Anniversary, UAS Registration requirements!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Requirements for Becoming a Small UAS Pilot

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new comprehensive regulations went into effect on August 29, 2016  for routine non-recreational  use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) – more popularly known as “drones.”  The key element to this new part 107 to CFR Title 14 is to allow commercial operation of sUAS.  The FAA states in the Final Rule that “This Part 107 small UAS rule is an “enabling rule,” which effectively reduces the cost of entry into the non-recreational, non-hobby (or “commercial”) market for UAS services.”

A major requirement  of the new rules is that a sUAS must operated by a person who has previously obtained a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating issued by the FAA prior to sUAS operation.

The FAA has established specific requirements for the pilot certification process so that a person can act as a remote pilot in control (“PIC”)   of a sUAS.  Just like a manned-aircraft PIC, the remote PIC of an sUAS is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that UAS. The remote PIC will have final authority over the flight.

A person acting as a remote PIC of an sUAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) under part 107 must obtain a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating issued by the FAA prior to sUAS operation. The remote PIC must have this certificate easily accessible during flight operations. Guidance regarding remote pilot certification is found in Chapter 6, Part 107 Subpart C, Remote Pilot Certification and on the FAA website.

The FAA summarizes the requirements for becoming a first time pilot pursuant to Part 107 as follows:

Aeronautical Knowledge Tests (Initial and Recurrent). It is important to have and retain the knowledge necessary to operate a small UAS in the NAS. This aeronautical knowledge can be obtained through self-study, taking an online training course, taking an in-person training course, or any combination thereof. The FAA has published the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standard ( that provides the necessary reference material.
Note: The below information regarding initial and recurrent knowledge tests apply to persons who do not hold a current part 61 airman certificate.

First-Time Pilots
To become a pilot you must:
  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center
Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test – initial knowledge test areas include:
  1. Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  2. Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  3. Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  4. Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  5. Emergency procedures
  6. Crew resource management
  7. Radio communication procedures
  8. Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  9. Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  10. Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  11. Airport operations
  12. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedure

The FAA provides a list of suggested study materials  on its website at
The materials are comprehensive and include knowledge test sample questions.

Remote piloting of an sUAS is a serious responsibility, as the foregoing demonstrates.