The FAA issued its Recommendations for Consumer Drone Registration on November 21, however, this report was not listed on the front page of the FAA’s website. Instead it was buried in their publications section. Keep in mind these recommendations have not been finalized into rules/laws yet. However, the highlights of these recommendations are as follows.
No registration required for Drones weighing under 250 grams. When doing a grams to lbs conversion you get the following figure.
250g= 0lb 8.818491oz
Therefore any drone weighing under 1/2 lb will be exempt as a pound is 16 ounces.
This figure came about after a complicated series of calculations listed in the Task Force’s Report. Basically, the task force did a series of equations to arrive at a figure which would minimize potential risk for people on the ground or other aircraft in the event of a mishap.
Highlights of the Task Force’s Recommendations follow in BOLD. Our comments as always will be in Italics.
The Task Force recommendations for the registration process are summarized as follows:
1) Fill out an electronic registration form through the web or through an application (app).
2) Immediately receive an electronic certificate of registration and a personal universal registration number for use on all sUAS owned by that person.
3) Mark the registration number (or registered serial number) on all applicable sUAS prior to their operation in the NAS.
This is good news in the sense that the consumer Drone Registration requirements will not be the same as those for commercial operators. A simplified registration system, with immediate electronic registration certificates available for printing is a good thing. See yesterday’s post for an overview of the complexities of commercial registration.
The Task Force also recommends a free, owner-based registration system with a single registration number for each registrant.
(They also suggested that if the FAA is required by statute to charge,that the fee should be $0.001). sUAS owners would be required to register with the FAA, prior to operation in the NAS, by entering their name and street address into a web-based or app based registration system.
If the FAA does implement a fee of $0.001 it will be interesting to see how such a fee will be charged. In any rate, that amount is minimal. The provision of Name and Address information will go a long way toward ensuring some means of tracking operators and issuing appropriate consequences in the event someone does something careless, reckless, or just plain stupid. Remember too, that you must register before flying outdoors in the National Airspace System.
The system would be powered by an Application Program Interface (API) that would allow multiple app clients to feed registration information into the database, ensuring widespread compliance. Provision of email address, telephone number, and serial number of the aircraft into the system would be optional. Information on U.S. citizenship or residence status would not be required, but there would be a minimum age requirement of 13 years to register.
A simplified system is a good thing. The Age 13 requirement may break some young hearts, however, it will also ensure some adult supervision in the operation of consumer drones.
At the time of registration, each registrant would receive a certificate of registration that contains a unique universal registration number (and the aircraft serial number if provided) that can be used on all sUAS owned by the individual. This registration number would be required to be directly marked on or affixed to each sUAS the registrant owns, prior to outdoor operation.
This is important to anyone wanting to fly their Holiday Gift upon unwrapping. Indoors, sure. But make sure you have registered it with the FAA and mark your machine appropriately before you take it flying outside.
This marking would need to be maintained in a readable and legible condition, and be readily accessible upon visual inspection. If a registrant chose to provide the FAA with the aircraft’s serial number, the registrant would not be required to further mark the sUAS with the FAA-issued registration number , as long as the serial number meets the requirement of being readable, legible, and readily accessible (without the use of tools) upon visual inspection.
These marking requirements are to ensure that people don’t put a registration number in invisible ink, or buried inside some panel of your drone that you need tools to get to.
The Task Force also recommends that the registration process contain some sort of education component which could be similar to the existing content in the Know Before You Fly campaign.
Having some education on Drone Operation and Safe Flying is essential. The last thing anyone wants or needs is a cloud of toy drones flying near airports or anywhere they can hurt someone.
The Task Force recommends that the FAA establish a clear and proportionate penalty framework for violations. Current registration-related penalties (perhaps exceeding $25,000) were established in order to address and deter suspected drug traffickers and tax evaders who failed to register aircraft as part of larger nefarious schemes. Any person flying an sUAS, including consumers and juveniles, may now find themselves inadvertently in violation of this new system. The Task Force recommends that the FAA expressly establish a reasonable and proportionate penalty schedule that is distinct from those relating to traditional manned aviation. To the extent the FAA does not feel it has authority to alter penalty ranges indicated by statute, the Task Force recommends a change be made to Order 2150.3B, FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program, to set out the enforcement and penalty philosophy that the FAA will pursue, including a schedule of penalties.
So there will be penalties for not registering your drone if you are caught flying an unregistered drone weighing more than 250 grams (1/2 lb). As can be seen above the FAA recognizes that the original $25,000 plus penalty would be a bit excessive for someone operating a small toy drone. However, you can expect some kind of fine, and the FAA WILL have some sort of penalty system in place to enforce this rule.
Here is the final summary on the Rulemaking Committee’s Recommendations in a Q and A format.
UAS Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee Recommendations Summary
What category of UAS is covered by the registration requirement?
UAS that weigh under 55 pounds and above 250 grams
maximum take off weight, and are operated outdoors in the NAS.
So again, under 250 grams (1/2 lb) you don’t need to register. Anything larger, you do.
Do owners need to register each individual UAS they own?
No. The registration system is owner-based, so each registrant will have a single registration number that covers any and all UAS that the registrant owns.
This rule will simplify the registration process for consumers a bit as it will let you register multiple drones with the same registration number.
Is registration required at point-of-sale?
No. Registration is mandatory prior to operation of a UAS
in the NAS.
No need to register your drone when you buy it.
What information is required for the registration process?
Name and street address of the registrant are required.
Mailing address, email address, telephone number, and
serial number of the aircraft are optional.
This information will help populate the tracking database, and again ensure that no mystery drones will be around doing bad things.
Is there a citizenship requirement?
So unlike airplane registration or commercial operations, you won’t need to be a US citizen to register a commercial drone.
Is there a minimum age requirement?
Yes. Persons must be 13 years of age to register.
Is there a registration fee?
No fee unless the $0.001 fee system goes into effect.
Is the registration system electronic or web-based?
The system for entry of information into the database is web-based and also allows for multiple entry points, powered by an API that will enable custom apps to provide registry information to the database and receive registration numbers and certificates back from the database. Registrants can also modify their information through the web or apps.
Web and app based will allow convenience of registration, and the modification system ought to prove helpful.
How does a UAS owner prove registration?
A certificate of registration will be sent to the registrant at
the time of registration. The certificate will be sent electronically, unless a paper copy is requested, or unless the traditional aircraft registration process is utilized. The registration certificate will contain the registrant’s name, FAA-issued registration number, and the FAA registration website that can be used by authorized users to confirm registration information. For registrants who elect to provide the serial number(s) of their aircraft to the FAA, the certificate will also contain those serial number(s). Any time a registered UAS is in operation, the operator of that UAS should be prepared to produce the certificate of registration for inspection.
Having an easily printable registration certificate will make life easier as well, but have the certificate on hand when you fly your drone outdoors.
Does the registration number have to be affixed to the aircraft?
Yes, unless the registrant chooses to provide the FAA with
the aircraft’s serial number. Whether the owner chooses to
rely on the serial number or affix the FAA-issued registration number to the aircraft, the marking must be readily accessible and maintained in a condition that is readable and legible upon close visual inspection. Markings enclosed in a compartment, such as a battery compartment, will be considered “readily accessible” if they can be accessed without the use of tools.
So keep your registration number visible or in a place you don’t need tools to access.
More on this will certainly follow as these Recommendations are updated and implemented.