Drone Registration

Given the huge volume of drone sales this Holiday season, knowing how to properly register your drown is an important part of remaining legal. These registration rules have been in place in their current form on the FAA website since August 21, 2015.   Operators who fly under the Section 333 exemption are already subject to registration as noted below.

However,  the FAA will be issuing registration requirements for consumer non-commercial drone users in the very near future.   Stay tuned for further updates.  In the mean time, it is highly likely that the current rules for commercial registration will apply to non-commercial operators.  Therefore knowledge of commercial registration procedures will be useful to anyone who wants to own a drone.

Keep in mind that currently these registration procedures apply only to Commercially Operated Drones.   In order to qualify for the FAA’s Section 333 commercial operation exemption, you must have the following.

  1. a Section 333 grant of exemption,
  2. a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA),
  3. an aircraft registered with the FAA, and
  4. a pilot with an FAA airman certificate

Therefore, in order to operate a drone commercially,  by the terms of your 333 exemption you MUST Register Your Drone.  These rules have been in place in their current form on the FAA website and were last updated as of August 17, 2015.  They apply to all 333 operators.

Here is current the FAA Drone Registration page.  

We have reproduced the text of the page here with our comments.  Original FAA language in BOLD, our comments in Italics.  All links are still active and will take you to the relevant FAA page.  

The FAA Aircraft Registry lists unmanned aircraft registration guidance as new item on its home page, as can be seen in the link above.  The eligibility requirements for all aircraft can be seen below.

Eligibility

An aircraft is eligible for U.S. Registration if it is not registered in another country and it is owned by:

  • An individual who is a United States citizen,
  • A partnership each of whose partners is an individual who is a U.S. citizen,
  • A corporation or association:
    • organized under the laws of the U.S. or a State, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory or possession,
    • of which the president and at least two-thirds of the board of directors and other managing officers are U.S citizens, and
    • in which at least 75% of the voting interest is owned or controlled by persons that are U.S. citizens,
  • An individual citizen of a foreign country lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S.,
  • A U.S. governmental unit or subdivision
  • A non-U.S. citizen corporation organized and doing business under the laws of the U.S. or one of the States as long as the aircraft is based and primarily used in the U.S. (60% of all flight hours must be from flights starting and ending within the U.S.)

Aircraft Registration: Unmanned Aircraft (UA)

Registration is not required for model aircraft operated solely for hobby or recreational purposes. Guidelines for responsible hobby and recreational operations are available at http://www.faa.gov/uas/model_aircraft/.

So for now as long as you use a drone for hobby or recreational purposes only, you don’t have to register it, however, this will change if new  consumer registration rules are implemented.

Registration is required for all unmanned aircraft (UA) operated for non-hobby or non-recreational purposes.

On the other hand if you fly commercially, in other words make money from your drone in any way, you will have to both have a section 333 exemption and by the terms of your exemption, register your drone.

Registration is also required for Government UA. All Aircraft owned by agencies, offices or subdivisions of: the United States (other than aircraft of the U.S. Armed Forces), the States, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession of the United States are required to be registered.

As the above states, other federal and local government agencies are not exempt from registration requirements, since they are operating on a commercial basis.

UA Registration Assistance

Aircraft Registration requirements and directions are provided in 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 47 . The basic steps that follow will assist most UA registration applicants complete registration requirements.

You can also review the FAA’s Registration Instructions PDF document for assistance in registering your Drone.  Though this was originally manned for aircraft it does outline registration procedures in detail.

To Register a New – Small Unmanned Aircraft (sUA):

An unmanned aircraft is considered a new sUA when it has never been registered anywhere, and its maximum takeoff weight is less than 55 pounds.

To register the owner must provide the following:

  1. A completed Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1
    • An original Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1 must be used. Photocopies or computer generated copies of this form will not be accepted. These forms may be obtained from the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch or any Flight Standards District Office.
    • When a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) is an applicant to register a sUA it also must provide information regarding its organization, how management authority is held, and how it meets the definition of a U.S. citizen for aircraft registration. The Limited Liability Corporation Registration Information Sheet  (PDF) provides instructions on meeting this requirement.
    • Form AFS-750-94 (PDF), Information to Aid in the Registration of U.S. Civil Aircraft, provides helpful information about eligibility, types of registration, the proper form of names, signatures, titles, and addresses plus other related issues.”
  2. A full description of the UA provided by the manufacturer, builder or applicant in a Notarized statement.

    sUA Required Description Items

    • Full Legal Name of UA Manufacturer or Builder
    • sUA Model Designation
    • sUA Serial Number
    • Class (Airplane, Airship, Rotorcraft, Gyroplane, Ducted Fan)
    • sUA Maximum Takeoff Weight
    • Category (Land, Sea, or Both)
    • Name of Engine Manufacturer
    • Engine Model Designation
    • Engine Serial-Numbers (if none shown, enter ‘none’)
    • Number of Engines
    • Engine Power Output (given in HP or Lbs. Thrust)
    • Engine Type (2 or 4 Cycle Reciprocating, Electric,
      Turbo – Fan/Prop/Shaft/Jet)

    The notarized statement must also state “To the best of the undersigned’s knowledge the information provided above is correct, the described UA is not currently registered in another country, and the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner.

      • identifies the subject sUA by the builder’s full name, its model designation and serial number,
      • identifies undocumented transfers to the extent possible by the date they occurred, the purchaser’s name, as well as the name and location (city, state & country) of the person, company, or vendor that sold the sUA.
      • explains why any missing transfers of ownership are unavailable.
      • describes the other evidence provided with the notarized statement like an invoice, sales receipt or witness statement that proves the transfer of ownership took place. This alternative evidence is especially important when documenting the transfer of ownership to the applicant.
      • certifies, to the best of the applicants knowledge that; the information provided is correct, the described UA is not currently registered in another country, and the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner.Evidence of Ownership: An Aircraft Bill of Sale, AC Form 8050-2 (PDF) ,or an equal transfer of ownership document is required for each change in ownership from the sUA manufacturer or builder through any intervening owner(s) to the owner making application for registration. However, the FAA recognizes that bills of sale may not be available for sUA that have been in operation since before sUA registration became necessary or for sUA that were purchased as off-the-shelf items from a retail shop, or internet retailer not associated with the builder or manufacturer.
        When a bill of sale or other transfer of ownership document is unobtainable, the applicant may provide for consideration a notarized statement that:                      Sample statements are available for review.                                 NOTE: Items 2 and 3 may be combined into one notarized affidavit.

The portion in that last paragraph about not having a bill of sale available shows that the FAA recognizes the fact that such items could be lost. Though obtaining a notarized statement may be considered a hassle, not being able to register due to a lost receipt would be an even greater hurdle for potential operators.

Confirmation the sUA is not registered in another country. When a sUA is purchased from a manufacturer or seller located in another country it is considered an import. This requires a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of the exporting country confirming that the registration of the sUA in that country has been canceled or that the sUA was never issued registration by that country.

  1. An N-number to be assigned to the registered aircraft.  If a special N-number was reserved in advance by the sUA owner for this registration, this number will be assigned if it is entered on the forms in the indicated blanks.
    • A special N-number may be requested when filing the application and other documents for registration. Include a letter that lists several N-number choices, and the $10.00 special number fee. The first listed number verified as available will be assigned to the aircraft.
    • A random N-number will be assigned at no cost if the indicated blanks on the registration forms are left empty, or a random number is requested.
  2. The $5.00 registration fee by check or money order made payable to the Federal Aviation Administration. This fee is waived when the applicant is a Federal, State or local government office, agency or institution.                                                     Send your Registration documents to the FAA, Aircraft Registration Branch.Addresses for regular mail and overnight courier deliveries are available through the Contact the Aircraft Registration Branch menu item.
    Once the sUA is registered, apply for the appropriate operational authority.
    The following links will take you to information and directions.
    Operating for Non-Recreational Purposes
    Aircraft Owned by Government Agencies or Offices                       

    To Register a New – Unmanned Aircraft (UA):

A new unmanned aircraft is an UA that has not been registered anywhere and its takeoff weight is over 55 lbs.

To register the owner must provide the following:

  1. A completed Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1

    The notarized statement must also state “To the best of the undersigned’s knowledge the information provided above is correct, the described UA is not currently registered in another country, and the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner”        

  2. A full description of the UA provided by the manufacturer or builder in a Notarized statement is required when the UA model is not produced under a U.S. Type Certificate.

    UA Required Description Items

    • Full Legal Name of UA Manufacturer or Builder
    • UA Model Designation
    • UA Serial Number
    • Class (Airplane, Airship, Rotorcraft, Gyroplane, Ducted Fan)
    • UA Maximum Takeoff Weight
    • Category (Land, Sea, or Both)
    • Name of Engine Manufacturer
    • Engine Model Designation
    • Engine Serial-Numbers (If none shown, enter ‘none’)
    • Number of Engines
    • Engine Power Output (Given in HP or Lbs. Thrust)
    • Engine Type (2 or 4 Cycle Reciprocating, Electric,
      Turbo – Fan/Prop/Shaft/Jet)

    The notarized statement must also state “To the best of the undersigned’s knowledge the information provided above is correct, the described UA is not currently registered in another country, and the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner”

  3. Evidence of Ownership: An Aircraft Bill of Sale, AC Form 8050-2 (PDF), or an equal transfer of ownership document is required for each change in ownership from the UA manufacturer or builder through any intervening owner(s) to the owner making application for registration.
    When a bill of sale or other transfer document is unobtainable for one or more changes of ownership, the applicant may provide for consideration a notarized statement that:

    • describes the subject UA by the builders name, its model designation, and serial number;
    • gives the history and whereabouts of the UA telling how the applicant became its owner and explains why the missing transfer of ownership document is unavailable.
    • identifies undocumented transfers to the extent possible by the date they occurred, the purchaser’s name, the name and location (city, state & country) of the person, company, or vendor that sold the UA.
    • describes the other evidence provided with the notarized statement like an invoice, sales receipt or witness statement that proves the transfer of ownership took place. This alternative evidence is especially important when documenting the transfer of ownership to the applicant.
    • certifies, to the best of the applicants knowledge, that the information provided is correct, that the described UA is not currently registered in another country, and that the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner.

    Sample statements are available for review
    NOTE: Items 2 and 3 may be combined into one notarized affidavit.

  4. Confirmation the UA is not registered in another country. When a UA is purchased directly from a manufacturer or seller located in another country it is considered an import. This requires a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of the exporting country confirming that registration for this UA has ended or that the UA was never issued registration in that country.
  5. An N-number to be assigned to the registered aircraft. If a special N-number was reserved in advance by the UA owner for this registration, this number will be assigned if it is entered on the forms in the indicated blanks.
    • A special N-number may be requested when filing the application and other documents for registration. Include a letter that lists several N-number choices. The first listed number verified as available will be assigned to the aircraft. The special number fee is $10.00, payable by check or money order payable to the Federal Aviation Administration.
    • A random N-number will be assigned at no cost if the indicated blanks on the registration forms are left empty, or a random number is requested.
  6. The registration fee of $5.00 per UA. Please pay all fees by check or money order made payable to the Federal Aviation Administration. Multiple fees may be consolidated into a single payment. Registration and N-number fees are waived when the applicant is a Federal, State or local government office, agency or institution.

Every American owned aircraft requires a registration number, usually referred to as an N-number.  You can get your N-number at the FAA N-number reservaton page.  The fee for N-number reservation is $10.00

Send your Registration documents to the FAA, Aircraft Registration Branch.Addresses for regular mail and overnight courier deliveries are available through the Contact the Aircraft Registration Branch menu item.
Once the sUA is registered, apply for the appropriate operational authority.
The following links will direct you to useful information and directions.
    Operating for Non-Recreational Purposes
    Aircraft Owned by Government Agencies or Offices

Notice the number of mandatory steps to be taken.  They sound complicated.  However, these steps do not require a rocket scientist to complete.  Keep in mind though that as the rules say above, you will need to have to obtain an original copy of the Registration form AC 8050-1 from the FAA.

To Register a Used – sUA or UA Aircraft:

A used sUA or UA is an unmanned aircraft that has been registered in the U.S. or another country, or operated by the military forces of any country.

To register the owner must provide the following:

  1. A completed Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1,
  2. Evidence of Ownership: An Aircraft Bill of Sale, AC Form 8050-2 (PDF), or an equal transfer of ownership document is required for each change in ownership from the last registered owner or military owner through any intervening owner(s) to the owner making application for registration.
    If a bill of sale or other transfer document is unobtainable for one or more changes of ownership, the applicant may provide for consideration a notarized statement that:

    • describes the used sUA or UA by the builders name, its model designation, and serial number;
    • gives the relative history and whereabouts of the sUA or UA telling how the applicant became its owner and explains why the missing transfer of ownership document is unavailable.
    • identifies undocumented transfers to the extent possible by the by the date they occurred, the purchaser’s name, the name and address (with country) of the person, company, or vendor that sold the sUA or UA.
    • describes the other evidence provided with the notarized statement like an invoice, sales receipt or witness statement that proves the transfer of ownership took place. This alternative evidence of ownership is especially important when documenting the transfer of ownership to the applicant.
    • certifies, that to the best of the applicants knowledge, that the information provided is correct, the described sUA or UA is not currently registered in another country, and that the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner.
    • Sample statements are available for review.
  3. Confirmation the used sUA or UA is not registered in another country.When a previously registered or military operated sUA or UA is purchased from a manufacturer or other seller located in another country the sale is considered an import. This requires a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of the country where the aircraft was last registered or operated that confirms the registration for this sUA or UA has ended or that the sUA or UA was never issued civil registration in that country.
  4. A full description of the sUA or UA: If the model of an imported or former military UA or sUA is not covered by a U.S. Type Certificate, a full description of the aircraft is needed. The description elements listed below may be provided by the builder, manufacturer or applicant in a Notarized statement provided with the aircraft’s registration documents. This item is not required if the aircraft was last previously registered in the U.S.
    Used sUA, UA Required Description Items

    • Full Legal Name of UA Manufacturer or Builder
    • UA Model Designation
    • UA Serial Number
    • Class (Airplane, Airship, Rotorcraft, Gyroplane, Ducted Fan)
    • UA Maximum Takeoff Weight
    • Category (Land, Sea, or Both)
    • Name of Engine Manufacturer
    • Engine Model Designation
    • Engine Serial-Numbers (if none shown, enter ‘none’)
    • Number of Engines
    • Engine Power Output (Given in HP or Lbs Thrust)
    • Engine Type (2 or 4 Cycle Reciprocating, Electric,
      Turbo Fan/Prop/Shaft/Jet)

    The notarized statement must also state “To the best of the undersigned’s knowledge the information provided above is correct, the described UA is not currently registered in another country, and the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner”

  5. The N-number assigned to the registered aircraft. When a U.S. registered sUA or UA is sold to another U.S. owner, it already has an assigned N-number. The new owner should show the assigned N-number in the indicated blanks on the application and bill of sale forms. The aircraft will then be registered and a registration certificate issued using this N-number.
    • If a special N-number was reserved or is desired by the new owner for use on this sUA or UA, we suggest that the new owner allow the registration process to take place using the already assigned N-number to ensure continued operability of the aircraft. Once registration is issued to the new owner an N-number change may be requested.
    • A random N-number will be assigned at no cost to import and former military aircraft if the indicated blanks on the registration forms are left empty, or a random number is requested.
  6. The registration fee of $5.00 per aircraft. Please pay all fees by check or money order made payable to the Federal Aviation Administration. Multiple fees may be consolidated into a single payment. Registration and N-number fees are waived when the applicant is a Federal, State or local government office, agency or institution.

Send your Registration documents to the FAA, Aircraft Registration Branch.Addresses for regular mail and overnight courier deliveries are available through the Contact the Aircraft Registration Branch menu item.
Once the sUA or UA is registered, apply for the appropriate operational authority. The following links will direct you to useful information and directions.
    Operating for Non-Recreational Purposes
    Aircraft Owned by Government Agencies or Offices

Sample Wording for sUA and UA Notarized Statements

Describe the sUA or UA with complete name of the aircraft’s builder or manufacturer, its official model designation, and its serial number.

(If the complete 12 item sUA or UA description statement is also needed, it may be combined here with the affidavit statement for convenience.)

THE UNDERSIGNED OWNER CERTIFIES

  1. For new retail purchased sUA only: I purchased the sUA described above as a new off-the-shelf item on (date) from (name, city, state & country of retail shop or internet vendor)
    A manufacturer’s bill of sale was not available at the time of purchase, and the (receipt / invoice / other evidence)(is enclosed / is not available) to confirm the purchase.
  2. For any size KIT built UA: I built the UA described above from a prefabricated kit. The kit bill of sale from the kit manufacturer (and if applicable, evidence of ownership through all intervening owners) to the undersigned is enclosed.
  3. For any size UA: I built the UA described above using salvaged, fabricated, or miscellaneous spare parts.
  4. For manufacturers, any size UA: The UA described above is newly manufactured using standard parts in a proprietary design by the undersigned manufacturer.
  5. For Used UA of any size: The UA described above was purchased used. My evidence of ownership from the previous owner is attached. A good faith effort was made to obtain evidence of ownership from the UA’s (builder/manufacturer/last registered owner/other) through all intervening owners to the previous owner. (Enter explanation of aircraft’s history and whereabouts, why any ownership change is not documented by a bill of sale and what evidence of the transaction(s) is provided.)

To the best of the undersigned owner’s knowledge, the information provided above is correct, the described UA is not registered in another country, and the undersigned is the aircraft’s rightful owner.

Name(s) of Owner(s): __________________, ________________________
Signature(s): _______________________, __________________________
Title of Signers: _____________________, ___________________________
Address: _______________________________________________________
Telephone: __________________

NOTARY PUBLIC
State: _______________ County: ______________
Country: ______________________
Subscribed and sworn before me this: ______ day of: __________, ______

Signature: ___________________________________
(Signature of individual authorized under local law to administer oaths)
My Commission Expires: ___________________
(Seal as required by State or local law.)

Selling your U.S. registered sUA or UA:

  • The seller should execute a bill of sale transferring all or a specific portion of their right, title and interest in the sUA or UA to the purchaser. Provide the original signed bill of sale to the purchaser. Use the aircraft description shown on the registration certificate or the Search Aircraft Registration Informationwebsite to correctly describe the sUA or UA on the bill of sale.
  • The seller should also retain their Certificate of Aircraft Registration, AC Form 8050-3, complete the applicable items on the reverse side, and return it to theFAA Aircraft Registration Branch.
  • The purchaser should forward the bill of sale with the seller’s original signature, a completed Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1, and the $5.00 registration fee to the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch.
  • All signatures on all forms must have the typed or printed name of the signer next to their signature in the signature block.
  • All fees should be paid by check or money order made payable to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Helpful links for sUA and UA registration.
Aircraft owned by a Limited Liability Corporation, LLC  (PDF)
Aircraft Registration Forms
Information to Aid in the Registration of U.S. Civil Aircraft (PDF)
Information to Aid in The Recording of Aircraft Ownership and Security Documents (PDF)
About Aircraft Registration Renewal
Contact the Aircraft Registration Branch, by telephone or e-mail for assistance
Operating Hobby or Recreational sUA and Model Aircraft
FAA UAS Integration Office webpage
14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 47 – Aircraft Registration Regulations

Page last modified: August 21, 2015 9:45:12 AM EDT

Finally it should be noted that the FAA posted on its website on November 16th, a notice to “Think Twice about Drone Registration Firms.”  This post advises individuals to keep up with registration requirements on the FAA website, not rely on private companies offering drone registration assistance for a fee.   It also advises owners to “wait until additional details about the forthcoming drone registration system are announced later this month before paying anyone to do the work for them. “