The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that US residents must register hobbyist drones by February 19 at its drone registration website. Registration opens December 21 and is free through January 20, the agency said. After that, the FAA will charge $5 for registration.
All drones that weigh between 250 grams and 22 kilograms must be registered, and those caught flying unregistered devices could face civil penalties that include a fine of up to $27,500. Criminal penalties, on the other hand, could result in a fine of up to $250,000 and a maximum of three years in jail.
Most hobby drones, which can be bought for under £100 on the high street, weigh more than 250 grams – so most ‘casual’ drones that will be given for Christmas this year will fall under the new regulations.
The federal law becomes effective on 21 December, when drone owners will be able to start registering. Usually, the registration fee is $5, but the FAA is waiving this small sum for the first 30 days, in order to encourage registration before the deadline.
After they’ve registered online by supplying their name, home address and email address, they will get a certificate and a unique number for their drone, which must be marked on the device itself – in order to help trace a drone back to its owner if it gets lost or is flown in a manner that breaks the law.
Registration will last for three years, and will have to be renewed for an additional $5 once that time is up. Registration also applies to the owner, not the drone – so even if pilots have multiple drones, they’ll only need to register (and pay the fee) once.
The new registration system closes the gap between hobbyists and those who fly drones for commercial means, such as for filming or security. Commercial pilots already have to register with the FAA, but they can’t do it online – the agency said in a statement that they were working on enhancements to the system that will allow commercial pilots to register online too.
Sportact Editors and Wire Services