US DoT & FAA Are Going to Require You to Register Your Drones at the End of the Year

The US Department of Transportation held a press conference today announcing the first ever federal drone registry, requiring both professional pilots and hobbists alike to register their drones.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx explained that a task force will be put together to come up with recommendations for the drone registry, which is intended to crack down on the illegal use of drones, namely over airports and other controlled airspace where drone pilots have interfered with operations or put others in danger. According to Secretary Foxx, this new registry will help educate drone users on the rules and regulations of operation, as well as give whichever government agency who will enforce them a way to hold pilots accountable.

You can check out the DoT press conference below:

The FAA has been actively trying to curtail the illegal use of drones, especially in the past year or so, creating a No Drone Zone campaign, as well as an app (currently in beta testing) that tells drone users if there are any restrictions or regulations where they want to fly. They released their proposal for drone regulations back in February, and much to the surprise of drone enthusiasts and professionals, they were considerably pretty lax. However, having to register your drone and will certainly put pressure on users to know and understand the rules of operation to avoid suffering the consequences. Secretary Foxx says:

Registration will help us enforce the rules against those who operate unsafely, by allowing the FAA to identify the operators of unmanned aircraft. We can take enforcement action as necessary to enforce the airspace.

Not much is known about what the rules will include, or who or what they will apply to. (Will you be fined for flying a drone in your backyard?) According to Secretary Foxx, the task force's recommendations will be due by November 20th of this year in order to have the registry in place before Christmas. Until then, you might want to check Know Before You Fly, an educational campaign founded by the a ton of agencies, including The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems and the FAA.     

Your Comment

40 Comments

I'm in favor of this. If too many inexperienced pilots fly without following best practices, crash too much and/or hurt people the entire drone industry, and all the opportunities that come along with it, will be impeded upon. I've expanded more on my thoughts here: http://tarproductions.com/2015/10/19/consumer-drone-ethics-filmmaking/

October 19, 2015 at 3:38PM

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Tim Ryan
Filmmaker
267

If they crash too much, they'll be broke...... drones aren't cheap. No need for nanny government.

October 19, 2015 at 4:44PM

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I believe you should not need a license to use drones commercially because commercial use has nothing to do with safety BUT I absolutely think all drones should be registered to help keep people accountable.

So many people have no idea what they can't do and why. The morons will be the ones that wreck it for the rest of us. At least this way perhaps they will be directed to a site where they can watch a safety video before registering? Most people will want to do the right thing and shouldn't have an issue with it and the tools that don't won't anyhow. But if it helps inform then great.

October 19, 2015 at 6:39PM

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Do you also believe vehicle registration prevents car accidents? I'm trying to figure out how you come to the conclusion that registration is going to accomplish anything good.

October 20, 2015 at 8:59AM, Edited October 20, 9:00AM

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He didn't say that, he said they should be registered to keep people accountable. If you crash a car and run from the scene you will be traced back via info that you register about the car.
Same thing needs to happen with drones. That was his point...

October 20, 2015 at 11:06AM

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Quinton
74

Reread his comment before being rude. He said that they would be accountable, not that it would prevent accidents.

October 20, 2015 at 2:28PM

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Beau Wright
Filmmaker
364

If all cars were unmarked what do you think driving would be like? People would do anything they wanted. Nightmare.

October 20, 2015 at 9:01PM

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"No need for nanny government."

Bingo. First comes registration, then all the sudden there are a "limit" on registrations, then before you know it, a few well-connected Hollywood elite companies will secure monopolies on all drone shooting. It'll probably be the same price as a helicopter in a few years now... $20k a day.

October 20, 2015 at 11:09PM

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Stupid people spoil it for everyone.

October 19, 2015 at 3:40PM

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I agree, stupid people who support this overreach.

October 20, 2015 at 8:55AM

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Absolutely disgusting overreach. I hope a lot of people just blatantly ignore this.

October 19, 2015 at 4:24PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1230

Might you be one of the morons?

October 20, 2015 at 7:49AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1881

A moron because I'm principled? Hardly. I don't even own a multicopter, but if I did I would *ONLY* be using it in very rural areas to begin with, and it's absolutely ridiculous that the government would expect me to have it "registered" in order to do that. I have a friend who has a Phantom 3 and an Inspire 1, and I've collaborated with him on several projects. I've even used the Inspire 1 in Dual Operator mode with him, and of course... All we've ever done together has been shoot stuff out in the middle of nowhere. Can you give me a single compelling reason why someone should be forced to "register" their property in order to do that?

No, you can't.

October 20, 2015 at 1:59PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1230

David, this is about accountability not prevention.
As someone flying responsibly in rural areas, you are the exception, unfortunately. Most people are irresponsible. They will be flying in densely populated areas.

Drones are inherently dangerous. Whether the operator loses control or flies irresponsibly, the copter could injure someone and/or seriously damage property.

This is about holding irresponsible people accountable, not to burden those who are responsible. But the same rule will apply to everyone.

October 20, 2015 at 5:42PM, Edited October 20, 5:43PM

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Charlie K
1453

"This is about holding irresponsible people accountable, not to burden those who are responsible."

"But the same rule will apply to everyone."

And therein lies the problem. I don't see how you can actually type these two sequential sentences without seeing the problem here.

Obviously, if an operator crashes and causes damage to people or property they should be held liable for that damage. But if this is just about holding people accountable for their actions, why does anything preemptive need to be done? How is this going to result in people being held accountable?

As much as people talk about how "dangerous" multicopters are, there haven't really been all that many accidents with them. As far as I know, there haven't been any TRULY serious accidents at all. In the event that one happens, the registry is unnecessary because if the wreckage is recovered at the scene of a truly serious crime, it wouldn't be all that hard to just find a serial number (something that I'm sure ALL multicopter manufacturers add to their products for warranty purposes), trace it back to the manufacturer, find out where the manufacturer sent that item, and then find out what credit or debit card was used to purchase it. So... What exactly is the point of this registry? This is just going to make owning a multicopter more complicated. What is it going to do to the second-hand market?

October 21, 2015 at 5:06PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1230

Oh, and it should of course be noted that all those steps would only be necessary IF the owner hadn't registered the multicopter with the manufacturer already for warranty purposes. If they had, literally all an investigator would need to do is find the serial number and call the manufacturer to identify the operator. It's that simple. No need to sweeping government overreach.

October 21, 2015 at 5:11PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1230

When you don’t know who did it, how will you hold the unknown person liable?

Law enforcement does not have time to play detective in civil property damage cases. I was rear ended hard enough to knock my car into the car in front of me, and it into the car in front of it. The pickup which hit me fled. I knew the make & model & color of the pickup truck, which was only made for three years, plus four of the seven digits on the license plate. Unbelievably, the state DMV database cannot search multiple fields. Both state and local law enforcement told me they would have to manually search 1000 records. And they refused.

The three cars sustained more than $10k of damage. People in the car in front of me were injured. Insurance adjusters for the car in front of me claimed it was my fault, since they had no evidence of any pickup truck hitting me. Luckily, the driver in front of me saw that I had fully stopped shortly before the impact which knocked my car into his.

When a drone crashes through your living room window, shatters a vase, slices open your leather couch, cuts your dog who bleeds all over your new rug, do you really think the local police will solve the case? You think a detective will go through the distribution chain, then get a Chinese manufacturer to cooperate? I don’t.

And that’s why the registry makes sense. It would be relatively easy for B&H and Fry’s, with each sale, to get the information into a domestically controlled database. And we know that the DOT and/or FAA will gladly grant local law enforcement easy access to that database.

Item two: Drone Danger
I chose not to post this earlier. But you’ve raised the issue. I know of three professional shoots with a drone, two for high end real estate.

I was on one, in the mountains, near a resort. The pilot said he had been flying for a decade and was sponsored by DJI. I believe he holds a private pilot’s license. He had an octocopter, maybe an S1000. On the last shot on the last day, the copter suddenly took off by itself. He managed to grab the landing gear, reach up and disconnect the battery cable. Otherwise, it would have flown away and landed on who knows what.

Two months earlier, the same production company was working with another experienced octocopter pilot on a beach. There was a problem, and the copter crashed very close to talent. The producer was not sure whether the pilot completely lost control or he knew the copter was going to crash and didn’t want to ditch it over the water. Neither answer is good.

These illustrate not that there was not a serious injury, albeit a close call in one, but that drones are never 100% under the pilot's control. Both cases were with pilots with hundreds of hours of flying time, not hobbyists, and they lost control of their drones.
Additionally, the octocopter is too loud to shout over, making it impossible to warn talent or crew in case of real danger.

The third case was on a high end shoot, far enough from the city that there was a medic on set. People there tell me he saved the pilot’s life after a rotor cut a baseball sized chunk out of the pilot’s leg. The medic prevented him from bleeding to death. I have no idea how experienced the pilot was.

I disagree with your statement that “…there haven’t really been all that many accidents with them”. I have no idea how you know that, because I haven’t researched it. In my experience, they’re dangerous at the professional level. What’s going to happen when 1-2 million amateurs have them by the end of the year? Midair collisions, injuries, collisions with power lines, property damage, etc.

Geofencing is a great way to keep drones out of restricted airspace. But it offers nothing for collision avoidance. Have drone manufacturers developed anything akin to what auto manufacturers have started implementing for collision avoidance?

A drone can seriously cut someone.
Even with rotor guards, a three pound drone with rotor guards flying 25 MPH into your head will injure you.
We all know that a drone can cause property damage.
And a drone could start a chain reaction of collisions.

All these are the concern of the DOT and FAA. It elected to create a registry rather than dumping every collision problem onto local law enforcement. Maintaining a registry is far easier than later trying to trace serial numbers to distributors to vendors to purchasers.

October 22, 2015 at 5:09PM, Edited October 22, 5:34PM

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Charlie K
1453

Yes I can. Because it's a drone.

October 23, 2015 at 12:10AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1881

The fees currently floating around here in DC are ridiculous. Annual registration fees are going to make a lot of people not want to conform. You have to buy the drone then pay fees to use the product you just bought.

October 19, 2015 at 4:44PM

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Walter Wallace
YouTuber
1642

No fees were mentioned.

October 19, 2015 at 6:30PM

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yes, because fees are synonymous with registration.

October 20, 2015 at 9:07AM, Edited October 20, 9:07AM

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They wont mention the fees in the PC, I contract with the state department and this is the information currently floating around. They want the program to be cost neutral.

October 20, 2015 at 10:24AM

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Walter Wallace
YouTuber
1642

They know they need incentives to get people to register. There won't be fees.

October 20, 2015 at 9:05PM

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cost neutral means not tax funded...... in other words, registration fees.

October 20, 2015 at 9:51PM

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Unless they shoot down the drone or it crashes, they won't be able to see who the UAS is registered to.
If they see a drone in the glide slope at JFK they'll only be able to go, "yep, that's a DJI Phantom 3, who has one registered in the area."

October 19, 2015 at 6:01PM

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George Nelson
Director / Cinematographer
233

Exactly, which is part of why I think this is such a ludicrous overreach. What are they going to do, require an identification number to be printed on the side? That seems pretty pointless. If they actually want to make this measure effective at identifying people breaking the rules, what would they actually have to do? Mandate some kind of integrated, wireless identification system? That's pretty scary, and would drive up prices on this awesome technology.

October 19, 2015 at 6:44PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1230

What's the big deal? Register your serial number. Yes, it would most likely be use in a crash investigation.

Let's not fool ourselves. Once the government wants to disable a drone, it will be able to. Battelle has already developed the device:
http://www.battelle.org/our-work/national-security/tactical-systems/batt...

October 19, 2015 at 11:50PM, Edited October 19, 11:53PM

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Charlie K
1453

If someone buys that jammer then they are going to jail if they are caught with it in the US.

http://www.gps.gov/spectrum/jamming/

Also they could not make a UAS land with that device, like they did in the video. Commands need to be sent to the aircraft for a controlled landing. That device would most likely make it go out of control and crash into something.

October 20, 2015 at 12:58AM, Edited October 20, 1:06AM

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George Nelson
Director / Cinematographer
233

Identifying numbers on every drone capable of flying higher than 50 feet. YES!

October 20, 2015 at 8:02AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1881

"If they see a drone in the glide slope"?
The glide slope is a landing aid for the pilots, no one is going to see a drone in it. That said, I agree with the point you are trying to make. Registration accomplishes nothing positive.

October 20, 2015 at 9:11AM, Edited October 20, 9:14AM

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It would be reported from the pilots if a drone was in a glide slop. Unless the drone has a mode s transponder, no one will be able to see it on their scopes unless they have a visual.

October 20, 2015 at 11:46AM

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George Nelson
Director / Cinematographer
233

So what about everything that is Remote Control? What a waste of time, the FAA needs to worry about their antiquated Air Traffic Control System if they are really concerned about safety. This is a control / tax / fee grab....

October 19, 2015 at 6:34PM

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This measure is common sense, my friend. The idiot children cannot or will not control and govern themselves.

October 20, 2015 at 7:54AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1881

This is good.

October 19, 2015 at 11:49PM

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Manufacturers should be responsible by clearly displaying serial numbers on the body of the drone. This would identify the buyer/pilot in case of an incident. Registration would add to the safety issue and although not mentioned, there may be registration fees involved as government usually dips in issues for monetary gain.

October 20, 2015 at 10:57AM, Edited October 20, 10:57AM

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I have several friends who are responsible, professional drone owner/operators and they are all in favor of this ruling, stating, "this will help get the idiots off the field who, without this measure, will ruin the industry for all of us".

This is, at least, one thing the government is doing right.

October 22, 2015 at 12:31AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1881

Well, the one quadcopter operator that I know isn't in favor of this. Frankly, though, it shouldn't matter who is or isn't in favor of it as this comes down to being an issue of individual liberty. No one's opinion trumps another person's freedom.

October 22, 2015 at 1:58AM

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David West
Filmmaker
1230

You need a license to operate a car, a motorcycle, a helicopter, a plane...no reason drones should be any different. Demonstrate you know the laws and have your papers in order. Be accountable.

October 22, 2015 at 10:03AM

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Michael Ryan
Editor
88

This ^

October 23, 2015 at 12:07AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1881

Unfortunately this is not a license. The FAA is coming out with its final ruling at the end of the year on licensing and rules, this is what the people representing the UAS community is working with them on and is supporting because it will protect the consumer and public.

October 23, 2015 at 11:37AM

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George Nelson
Director / Cinematographer
233