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!