Mandatory FAA Drone Registration Returns: Here’s What You Need To Know

NOTE: This article pertains to drone pilots in the United States and the necessity (once again) for them to register their aircraft with the FAA. For anyone residing in another country reading this article outside of the USA, please refer to your local laws & regulations before you fly your drone.

Recent History And Taylor v. Huerta

In May of 2017, the FAA’s model aircraft registration program was brought down after a court decision ruled pilots are no longer required to register model aircraft. This included drones. This was convenient for drone pilots since it became one less hoop they had to jump through in order to fly. Although the registration fee was only $5, it was one less thing to worry about before taking to the sky.

If you’re interested in reading more about the aforementioned court decision, here’s a link to John Taylor’s lawsuit (PDF) which discusses the suit, what was requested to change, and the FAA not having the authority to issue the rule.

Ultimately, Taylor’s case held up in court and the FAA’s registration program ended. Pilots who paid the $5 registration charge could also collect a refund.

However, major players in the drone industry “weren’t thrilled” as seen in this quote from DJI’s head of policy:

“The FAA’s innovative approach to drone registration was very reasonable, and registration provides for accountability and education to drone pilots,” DJI’s head of policy Brendan Schulman said in an email to Recode. “I expect the legal issue that impedes this program will be addressed by cooperative work between the industry and policymakers.”
SOURCE: recode.net (5/19/2017)

One reason the drone industry was disappointed is that registration of drones brings it legitimacy by being recognized by a governing body.

Mandatory FAA drone registration has returned. What does it mean for you?

On December 12, 2017, The National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law by President Trump. Within this act, there is a new legislation that “re-authorizes the FAA to enforce a mandatory registration program for model aircraft between 0.55lbs and 55lbs”. The registration process resumes and stays largely the same as prior to May of 2017.

Be sure to take note:

You will be subject to civil and criminal penalties if you meet the criteria to register an unmanned aircraft and do not register.

NOTE: In the United States, There is only one website you should use when registering your drone. DO NOT fall for any other services offering to do it for you. The process is very easy and straightforward at: https://registermyuas.faa.gov/

Screen Capture of the FAA.gov UAV Registration Website

Screen Capture of the FAA.gov UAV Registration Website

If your craft is larger than 55 pounds, there are some additional steps you need to take. They are noted in this graphic:

FAA Registration for Crafts Over 55 Pounds

FAA Registration for Crafts Over 55 Pounds

Registration Is Necessary Again, But Are There Other Requirements?

If you plan to fly for work or business (in other words, anything non-recreational), it is highly advised to get a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC) issued by the FAA.

From FAA.gov, here are Part 107 Operating Rules, which you should adhere to for recreational or commercial use, include:

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds, including payload, at takeoff
  • Fly in Class G airspace
  • Keep the unmanned aircraft within visual line-of-sight
  • Fly at or below 400 feet
  • Fly during daylight or civil twilight
  • Fly at or under 100 mph
  • Yield right of way to manned aircraft
  • Do not fly directly over people
  • Do not fly from a moving vehicle, unless in a sparsely populated area

First time pilots taking the test must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center

The FAA offers some great resources toward helping anyone obtain a Part 107 RPC. Suggested study materials, additional helpful links…and much more are listed here. In addition, there are some fantastic resources on YouTube – a quick search for Part 107 Drone Certification will lead you to many great “study guides” such as:

In Conclusion: It Seems Like a Lot. It Isn’t.

If you’re a hobbyist flying drones for fun, the only task you really need to worry about is registering your drone with the FAA. Once that’s complete, adhere to all your local rules/regulations…and fly safely!

If you plan to fly your drone for any commercial purposes, get part 107 certified in addition to registering your drone. It may seem like a lot to do before flying, but it ensures you protect yourself (and your clients) for a variety of legal & liability purposes. The part 107 certification also shows any prospective client you my fly for that you are very serious and knowledgeable about your trade.


Me on a downtown Baltimore rooftop during a drone video shootAbout The Author, Jason (Rotospace’s Creator)
Jason is an expert drone pilot who loves everything about this amazing aerial technology.
He flies two DJI drones: The Inspire1 and Mavic Pro Platinum …and enjoys keeping them airborne whenever possible. 
Jason’s rotospace-related social media accounts: Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

4 Comments

  1. Hi, I am from the UK so obviously, this doesn’t apply to me. However, in March I am heading over to L.A. and Hawaii. I plan on bringing my DJI Spark with me for some cool footage.
    In this case, would I need to Register my Drone? Is there anything else I would need to know before flying in the States?
    Thanks for alerting me to this registration…I had no idea!

    • Hi Steve, that’s a great question…and I found your answer within the FAQ on FAA.gov:

      I’m a foreign national and want to fly my UAS in the U.S. on vacation. Do I have to register before flying?
      If you are a foreign national and you are not eligible to register your sUAS in the United States there are two ways for you to operate. If you want to operate your UAS exclusively in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, you are not required to register your UAS. If you are not operating for commercial purposes but also not operating exclusively in compliance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, you must complete the steps in the web-based registration process to obtain a “recognition of ownership” from the FAA. Alternatively, if you want to operate your UAS for commercial purposes, you must register your UAS in the country in which you are eligible to register and obtain operating authority from the Department of Transportation.

      My advice (as long as you’re not going to do any commercial work), fly responsibly and follow the Part 107 Operating Rules above. You’ll be fine. Safe travels!
      – Jason (rotospace.com)

  2. Hello. Thanks for sharing this information. I maintain such a hectic schedule that I simply don’t have the time research the laws and regulations surrounding drones. I really want to purchase a drone for fun and enjoyment. Can you recommend certain brands and models to get as a hobbyist? I just want to be sure that I am compliant with the FAA. Thanks for your help!

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