December 31, 2016

Video: A Step-by-Step Walkthrough of Registering Your Drone with the FAA

Here's what you need to know about registering your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The drone registry has been in effect for a year now and since then the FAA has seen over 600,000 new sUAS ((Small Unmanned Aircraft System) users added to their database. Now that the holiday season is over, those numbers are expected to rise even higher now that thousands of brand new drones have reached the hands of their new owners. If you're one of them and are new to aerial cinematography and the rules and regulations that go along with it, here's what you'll need to know about the process of getting your drone registered.

Now, you might've heard a lot about new rules that came into effect at the end of this summer that might be scaring you away from flying drones, like he one that requires pilots to pass a certification test before taking to the air. But before you start preparing for any exams it's important to figure out what kind of drone you have and what kind of user you are.

First of all, drones that weigh less than 0.55 lbs. do not need to be registered (that means any small toy drones, planes, copters, etc.). For those of you flying drones that weigh more than that, like the DJI Phantom 4, Mavic, or any number of others, you are required to register your drones, however the rules vary depending on whether you plan on using your drone for recreation or commercial purposes. In other words, are you going to be making money off of your drone use or not?

If not, you're considered a hobbyist by the FAA and only need to go through the super easy $5 registration you saw demonstrated above. If you are, you're not only going to have to provide the make, model, and serial number of each drone you're registering, but you're going to have to become a certified pilot. (It's really not as scary as it seems.)

But guess what—most of you drone users are hobbyists. If you're just using drones to capture shots for a film you're not going to shop around, or even if you decide to monetize your personal videos on YouTube, you are still considered a hobbyist and don't need to go through the whole rigamarole of passing an exam.

To learn more about the FAA's rules and regulations concerning drones and piloting a sUAS, check out our post here where it breaks it all down.     

Your Comment

9 Comments

I recently had to stop flying a wedding (LEO stopped me) because I did not have a "commercial license" I am studying right now to take the test... and I will tell you if you have no experience flying a plane this test is not going to be a walk in the park.

December 31, 2016 at 9:29PM, Edited December 31, 9:30PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1205

I'm pretty seriously considering getting a Mavic in a few months. There's no way in hell I'll be registering it, though. I wish more people would do likewise. It's unfortunate that the filmmaking community as a whole is generally very pro-regulation and OK with all manner of intrusions against liberty.

January 1, 2017 at 6:18AM, Edited January 1, 6:18AM

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David West
Filmmaker
1030

That outlaw mentality is why those "intrusions against liberty" exist, Mr. West.

Rules and regs are necessary to try and keep people like yourself from intruding on the liberty of others, in essence, damaging their property or causing bodily harm.

Soooo... that is why the filmmaking community is generally considered to be responsible, accountable and supportive of the greater good.

This ain't the wild west anymore, cowboy.

January 1, 2017 at 11:33AM, Edited January 1, 12:05PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1694

"That outlaw mentality is why those 'intrusions against liberty' exist, Mr. West."

What a silly response. A principled and philosophically consistent opposition to government overreach is NOT why intrusions against liberty exist. In fact, it's the opposite. My "outlaw mentality" only exists because of intrusions against liberty. Those intrusions against liberty exist primarily because of fear.

You might as well say, "People illegally crossing the border are why strict border controls are needed!" while completely ignoring the fact that people cross the border illegally because strict border controls have made it inordinately difficult for people to simply cross the border legally.

"Rules and regs are necessary to try and keep people like yourself from intruding on the liberty of others, in essence, damaging their property or causing bodily harm."

Nonsense. If someone behaves irresponsibly and hurts someone or damages their property, there are already laws in place to punish them and help the victim seek restitution. Being opposed to a regulation doesn't mean that someone is going to act irresponsibly. Frankly the kind of people who put enough actual thought into their positions to oppose a regulation are probably LESS likely to act irresponsibly than the masses of people who by and large give the thumbs up to anything that an authority figure tells them is a "common sense regulation."

Me flying around a pound and a half of plastic in the middle of nowhere poses no risk to anyone. The handwringing logic behind the argument that the "risk" such an action poses justifies regulation and registration could be used to justify all manner of truly horrifying laws. Unless there is a clear victim, the violent force of law simply is not justified, ever.

January 1, 2017 at 6:47PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1030

Hi David,
I can see you side of the argument, there are already rules in place for causing damage and acting irresponsibly. However I'm a bit torn. Can you give me some example of why the FAA is overstepping its boundaries? I have been in the "drone" game for a long time and have both registered for commercial and fun. When I have, basically a name tag on my UAV I do feel a little more responsibility to where it lands. Luckily I've never had to deal with a huge issue, (knock on wood) and in the past I would like to believe I would have been man enough in the event of a crash or property/physical damage to take responsibility. But with out a name tag on the unit you may be able to escape with out notice. Now someone could always fake a number or ID tag but then they could run into other issues with forgery or mis-information. I think I was so happy to have a legal why of flying I would have signed anything and handed over my firstborn child. Do you think the industry could police itself or what kind of better solutions do you think could be out there? Are you sure you could never put anything in potential danger with your mavic?

January 2, 2017 at 4:39AM

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asa martinez
Camera Movement Tech, Camera Operator
115

"Can you give me some example of why the FAA is overstepping its boundaries?"

Ignoring the anarchist argument that any time you enforce regulations that create "victimless crimes" you're overstepping your boundaries, there's the fact that there are some serious privacy issues with the registry:

https://www.engadget.com/2016/02/03/faa-drone-registry-is-a-privacy-nigh...

"Do you think the industry could police itself or what kind of better solutions do you think could be out there?"

Absolutely! These are expensive electronics devices. Many of them are registered with the companies that create them for warranty purposes. In the rare situation where a drone causes serious bodily harm or property damage, it really wouldn't be very difficult for investigators to track down the owner. Why does this information need to all be consolidated under the umbrella of the federal government? Why not just leave it in decentralized where it's less likely to be abused?

"Are you sure you could never put anything in potential danger with your mavic?"

Considering the fact that I would buy it literally just for taking into the woods and backpacking, yes. Playing sports in a public park or riding a bike—two activities that generally don't require any registration or licensing—are both activities that are vastly more dangerous to the public than flying a multi-copter in the middle of nowhere.

"You're just making stuff up now to defend your maverick mentality."

How does describing my ideology constitute "making stuff up"?

"By your rhetoric here, I would imagine you feel having to have a driver's license and liability insurance is an intrusion on your liberty."

Nope. I don't want to go to far down the rabbit-hole of anarchist thought here, but it's the way that roads are funded that is an intrusion against liberty (because taxation is theft), not the existence insurance requirements and rules of the road. Such things would exist and be prudent even on road systems not funded via coercion.

"Violent force of law?! When or where has the enforcement of these regulations been violent?"

For this law? Probably never. But *ALL* laws are threats of violence. People may submit to laws even without literal violent enforcement, but that's only because the threat of forc is hanging over their head. You can argue that this is justified, but trying to claim that laws aren't enforced via violence is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order.

"Without registration, an operator could abandon the scene and, possibly, avoid being held accountable."

Except that they probably couldn't, because as I pointed out earlier between voluntary warranty registration and even the fact that most drones are purchased with credit or debit cards, it likely wouldn't be particularly difficult to track down an owner in the even of a catastrophic accident.

"Let's say someone dropped that pound and a half of plastic on your car, your home or worse, your head."

In a world where vandalism and assault actually happen with some regularity, why are you so concerned about this vanishingly rare possibility that you feel so strongly that this registry should exist? These concerns are basically strawmen.

"For the cost of that drone, the perp walks away, scott-free. As a fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizen, you wouldn't want that now would you, Mr West?"

Again, I think you're making a strawman here, but actually, YES; I would rather a criminal occasionally get away than innocent people have their rights routinely abridged in even trivial ways.

January 3, 2017 at 4:50AM

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David West
Filmmaker
1030

@David West

Mmm... nah! Don't think so.
You're just making stuff up now to defend your maverick mentality.

By your rhetoric here, I would imagine you feel having to have a driver's license and liability insurance is an intrusion on your liberty.

Violent force of law?! When or where has the enforcement of these regulations been violent?

A pound and a half of plastic falling from 400 feet could do real damage to anything it hits. Without registration, an operator could abandon the scene and, possibly, avoid being held accountable. Let's say someone dropped that pound and a half of plastic on your car, your home or worse, your head. Then, chose not to assume responsibility for that. Without registration, you might never know who did it. For the cost of that drone, the perp walks away, scott-free. As a fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizen, you wouldn't want that now would you, Mr West?

Please read Asa's post. He makes some good points and asks some fair questions.

January 2, 2017 at 9:03AM, Edited January 2, 9:07AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1694

So with the advent of RC cars which supports 3-Axis Gimbals... should it require some special registration and training as well? , because as i see it, once the equipment can move it can cause some damage to people and property. I see your Point but Mr. West makes some really really solid points.

January 2, 2017 at 2:59PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2556

@ Wentworth Kelly

Weak, very weak.

January 2, 2017 at 5:39PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1694