FAA Will Make Your Information on the Federal Drone Registry Public

December 21st is the day the FAA's Federal Drone Registry goes into effect, but there's one catch that might make you want to steer clear of UAV operation altogether.

That catch is this -- your privacy may be at stake if you register your drone. Forbes' John Goglia did some digging after noticing some contradictions between the FAA's FAQ section and what they stated in a legal filing. He emailed the FAA and the DOT's public affairs office asking simply if registrants' information, like their names and addresses, would be made available publicly. The FAA's response: 

Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address. When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches.

And DOT's:

Initially the Registration system will not have a public search function. The FAA plans to incorporate a search by registration number in the future. Names and addresses are protected by the Privacy Act. The FAA will handle disclosure of such information in accordance with the December 15, 2015 Federal Register notice.

This is certainly a substantial cause for alarm, especially considering the fact that children as young as 13 can register their drones. We don't know yet how private information will be searchable, or how on earth names and addresses can be revealed through searches (FAA) but still be protected by the Privacy Act (DOT). The fact is, if you do your due diligence and sign up on the Federal Drone Registry, according to the FAA and DOT, your information (name and address) will be available to the public through a search of your registration number. Whether you call that an invasion of privacy, a safety precaution, or whatever else is up to you.     

Your Comment


Why would they choose to do that? I assume in america you can't search someones licence plate number on their car so why make it possible to do this?

In a land full of guns and paranoia it wouldn't be hard to imagine someone thinking your spying on them and with the search function have them come knocking on your door... The worlds first drone related death won't be from a drone hitting someone it will be from a search box.

Maybe its just me thats paranoid.

December 19, 2015 at 7:01PM


You're right! This is an extremely bad idea on part of the FAA to publicly release this information.

People should sue to keep their information private. It's almost like they're making flying drones into something like the Meghan's law.

December 19, 2015 at 8:01PM

George Nelson
Director / Cinematographer

You are allowed to put the registration number inside the battery compartment. The only way your number can be viewed is if the drone is in someone's hand and the battery removed. Or, if it's confiscated by authorities, which they would do if you violated the rules. However, there should be tight controls on release of owner information.

December 24, 2015 at 3:36PM

Marc Curtis
Photojournalist (video type)

I'm loving all this.

What was originally a specialised occupation that necessitated dedicated training in both photographic filming techniques as well as very specific model helicopter operating and flying knowledge and skills gained through perseverance, experience and dedication has become accessible to the whole span of humanity.

By the long established laws governed by the lowest common denominator the result is total abuse by the ignorant and stupid, ultimately leading to draconian government control.

If 98% of drone users had ANY idea at all about how their aircraft actually work it may make a difference, but they don't. They buy it, charge the battery and very quickly assume that they know what they are doing. In a blink, their elevated opinion of their own skills blossoms to the point where they convince themselves they are professionals and start advertising their aerial filming services. Read any forum and see how the new hordes of multi-rotor operators write about their nervousness when flying. What a bunch of pussies.

Multi-rotors fly themselves, for crissakes !!

The ranks of all these 'knowledgeable', 'experienced', 'professional' drone operators would be absolutely decimated if they had to fly a single-rotor helicopter. if they had to fly something that required skill and coordination.

Yes, yes, of course the whole point of the multi-rotor is to remove the technical challenge but now we see the result. Hordes of ignoramii who cannot be bothered to learn the necessary technical skills and who lack basic respectful behaviour attitudes.

As a rule, the biggest irony of government drone regulation is that it focuses on entirely the wrong sector. It focuses on the pro sector, who largely know what they are doing, and ignores the amateur consumer sector. It is the latter that causes all the problems. So at least, finally, this new blanket drone registration approach is encompassing the sector causing all the trouble.

I (unrealistically) hope they make the regulations even more tiresome and I hope the law enforcement services get enthusiastic about policing it, to the degree that DJI is forced to drop their consumer drone lines. They are a plague.

Merry Bloody Christmas.

December 25, 2015 at 1:08AM, Edited December 25, 1:16AM

Graham HAY
Managing Director, Helicam International Ltd.

Yeah fully agree.
Exactly like filming and sound recording nowadays! 98% of people filming have NO IDEA of how a camera work.
Those days, it's as easy as to press the record button,... what a joke, you don't even need a crank to use you camera.
And all those amateur "cameraman" or "aerial photographers" that use cheap, "made in China" cameras like those Panasonic GH4, Canon MII or Black Magic shit, instead of a real camera like an Arri or a Panavision.
Actually, people who can not load the magazine of a REAL camera ( you know what I mean), blindfolded, in less than 5 minutes shouldn't even be allowed to film anything.
And certainly not call themselves "professionals"

70 mm for REAL pros, maybe 35 if you are on a low budget. The rest is for irritating amateurs!

I hope the ASC will regulate the filming business so those cheap asian "camera makers" will be bankrupt soon. They are a plague too.

Or maybe let's ask a REAL helicopter pilot with a Cineflex what he thinks about you RC "toys".

Your ranting can be and has been made about every technological progress.
You can evolve and live with it or disappear like many have done.
If you are good at what you do, bad (amateur) pilots will make you look even better.

January 5, 2016 at 8:02AM, Edited January 5, 8:18AM

Rap Singer

Nice FUD. Airplane tail numbers are publicly searchable, so RC aircraft should be no different if they're going to be registered.

And plane tail numbers are BIG AND LEGIBLE. Drone serials are not. Thus there's even less of a reason to raise FUD here. But this is about clickbait, right?

December 25, 2015 at 12:29PM

David Gurney