Let’s Go Over the Drone Registration Basics

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What are Drones?

A drone is an unmanned aircraft system or “UAS.” They are operated remotely and often carry audio and video recording Drone Registrationequipment. Drones are becoming increasingly popular for recreational and non-recreational purposes. All drones weighing over .55 lbs (one half pound) must be properly labeled and require drone registration.

Who Controls the USA Airspace?

According to Federal Aviation Act (49 USC 40103), the federal government alone has control over “navigable airspace.” Navigable airspace is the airspace above the minimum altitudes of flight including airspace needed for takeoff and landing. That is generally 500 feet or 1000 feet. States retain the ability to control airspace below navigable airspace.

Who Regulates Drone Usage?

There are three separate sources of applicable laws for drone activity that must be considered:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),
  • individual state laws
  • any applicable city ordinances.

FAA Regulations Regarding Drone Usage

The FAA has the authority to issue a Certificate of Authorization or COA for a public agency who seeks to operate a drone. A public agency has been defined as any agency that receives funding from the federal government. Currently, approximately 690 government agencies throughout the U.S. have applied for such permission.

FAA Requirements for Drone Registration

If you own a drone that will be used outdoors, and it weighs between .55 and 55 lbs, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) registry.  If you fail to register drones, you are breaking the law.

Do I Need to Register my Drone?

You can register your drone online. Once you register, a certificate of drone registration will be available for download and will also be emailed to you. You must have a copy of the certificate with you while you are operating your drone. A hard copy such as  a Flight ID Card or electronic copy are both acceptable.

You will receive a unique registration number for your drone. The drone must be marked with the unique FAA registration number. The registration number may be placed in the battery compartment as long as it can be accessed without the use of tools.

You Must Agree to Fly within the Following Guidelines

• Always fly drone below 400 feet altitude.

• Always keep your unmanned aircraft in sight at all times.

• Never fly drone near manned aircraft, especially near airports.

• Flying drone within 5 miles of an airport requires airport authorization.

• Do not fly drone over groups of people, stadiums or sporting events.

• Stay clear of emergency response efforts.

• Never fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

• Always be aware of FAA airspace Temporary Flight Restrictions.

A certificate of registration will be available to download and will be sent to your email address at the time of registration. When operating your UAV you must be able to present the certificate in either print or electronic format if asked for proof of registration.

If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds, you must register you drone here.

Federal Penalties for Failure to Register a Drone

Failing to register a drone will result in civil and criminal penalties. The FAA can assess a fine of up to $27,500. Additionally, a criminal penalty of up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250, 000 may be imposed.

Visit Drone Registrations FAQ’s for more thorough details on drone registration requirements.

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3 Comments on “Let’s Go Over the Drone Registration Basics”

  1. I don’t fly drones. All I have are foam/park flyer scale model aircraft. In most cases, the small battery pack actually weighs more than the air frame. Does this put me in the “Drone Pilot” category?

    1. Ted, If the total flying weight is over 250gm, you will fall under the “Drone Pilot” or Unmanned Aerial Systems category.

  2. Someone is flying a drone in my yard airspace, hovering around windows on my home, what rights do I have to protect my privacy? How can I know if the drone is registered lawfully?

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