The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced this week that starting on December 21 all hobby and recreational operators of remote-controlled aircraft, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), must be registered within 30 days.
The registration of remote-controlled aircraft, commonly known as drones, has been a hot-button issue with both owners and opponents of the vehicles. Critics of the growing popularity of drones say that the small aerial vehicles, when equipped with cameras, violate personal privacy and present a public hazard. Some officials say that drones also interfere with air traffic—there have been some cases of the aerial vehicles getting in the way of firefighters combating forest fires. Additionally, wildlife agencies are also concerned about animal rights advocates harassing hunters with drones and poachers using the aircraft for an added advantage.
“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”
Remote-controlled aircraft are also becoming vastly popular with filmmakers, nature photographers, shooting enthusiasts, and businesses. Videographers especially value the small, agile craft for their versatility and mobility, while businesses such as Amazon have considered using drones to make home deliveries. They also remain popular as Christmas presents. It should be noted that the FAA considers R/C helicopters, the same ones found in many toy stores, as UAS vehicles as well. Fundamentally, R/C vehicles and the aircraft commonly considered more “drone-like,” such as quadcopters, operate using the same methods.
Under the new rule, all remote-controlled aircraft between 0.55 pounds to 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA. The registration process will include a web application that will ask the owner for their name, home address, and email address. A Certificate of Aircraft Registration will be generated upon the completion of the application, and the drone owner will be issued an unique identification number for their use. That identification number then must be marked clearly on their remote-controlled vehicles. Owners only have to go through the process once and can use the same identification number for each of their aircraft. The registration is valid for three years.
“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” said FAA Administrator Michael 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.”
To encourage more people to register their aircraft, the FAA has waived the mandatory $5 application fee until January 20, 2016. Drones purchased before December 21 must be registered by February 20, 2016. However, aircraft purchased after December 21 must be registered before their first flight.
Image courtesy the Federal Aviation Administration