They said it was coming before the end of the year and the FAA has come through — regulations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (or drones/UAVs) are here.
The FAA has decided that all aircraft over 0.55 pounds and under 55 pounds (this includes everything, like the camera) must be registered with the organization, with users getting one serial number that must be prominently visible on all of the UAVs they own. The biggest thing to note here is that these regulations are just for consumers using the drones for recreational or hobby uses — those wanting to fly for commercial purposes will have to wait until Spring 2016 for the rest of the regulations.
Here's more from the FAA on these regulations:
Registration is a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft. Under this rule, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to December 21, 2015, must register no later than February 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after December 21, 2015 must register before the first flight outdoors. Owners may use either the paper-based process or the new streamlined, web-based system. Owners using the new streamlined web-based system must be at least 13 years old to register.
Owners may register through a web-based system at www.faa.gov/uas/registration
Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and e-mail address. Upon completion of the registration process, the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft.
Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS. The registration is valid for three years.
The normal registration fee is $5, but in an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA is waiving this fee for the first 30 days (from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan 20, 2016).
“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” said FAA Administrator Huerta. “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.”
It will take a while to find out if these regulations will really do any good, but I'm sure plenty of people either won't do it, or won't know anything about it. So what happens if you don't register your drone and it fits into the FAA's criteria? You could face penalties up to $27,500, with criminal penalties going as high as $250,000.
It's nice that they are waving the $5 fee for the first 30 days, but that's going to end up being another barrier for people to register once the fee kicks back in, especially if it's a really cheap drone already. There's no question people need to understand the rules of the air and how to fly safely (and where they're allowed to fly), but we'll see if this is the best way or not — or if more strict regulations might be in order.
To register your aircraft, head on over to the site below, and if you want to shoot with a drone for commercial purposes, hang tight until next year.