You might remember that earlier this year the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was going to start a registration system for drones. There had been numerous situations where drones interfered with emergency personnel, flew too close to landing aircraft or crashed in public, and law enforcement couldn't find the drone's owners.
The FAA started a task force to provide recommendations on how the registration should work, and that task force released its ideas in late November. Basically, it proposed that registration should be free, only apply to drones that weigh 8.8 oz (250 grams) to 55 pounds and fly outside, and only require a name and street address. See the full proposal here. So, what rules did the FAA decide to adopt?
The FAA's official registration system isn't too far off the recommendation. The registration rule applies to drones with a takeoff weight (meaning everything is attached) between 8.8 oz (250 grams) and 55 pounds. So, the drones we sell in our store, for example, are light enough to be exempt.
Registration requires a name, physical address and email address. It can be done online at this website or through the mail. And there is a $5 registration fee, the same as registration for small aircraft. However, if you register within the first 30 days, the FAA will refund the $5 fee (it claims it still needs to collect it for legal purposes).
The other good news is that registration lasts for three years, and you can use the same registration number on as many drones as you want. So you don't have to register each one individually, as long as you're using them as "model aircraft" (i.e. for hobby or recreation).
If you're using the drones for business, then each one will need its own registration. The registration number needs to be visible on the exterior of the drone, or placed in the battery casing.
Once you register, you'll receive a certificate of registration. You need to have a paper or electronic version of the certificate with you when you're flying the drone.
Anyone operating a drone prior to December 21, 2015, has until February 19, 2016, to register. Anyone buying or receiving a drone on December 21, 2015, and afterward needs to register it before the first flight.
Of course, the FAA's rules aren't entirely official yet. It still has to open them up for comments from the public. If you want to comment, the public commenting portion begins December 21 and continues for 30 days. You can use http://www.regulations.gov to comment on docket number FAA-2015-7396.
If you want to read the full rules, you can download the PDF.
Correction: The commenting period for this rule at www.regulations.gov BEGINS December 21.