Drones were at the top of the gift list this holiday, with an estimated 700,000 showing up under the tree. The thought of having this many new Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS) in our air space forced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get a registration system in place – and fast. But because the United States has the busiest and most complex airspace in the world, the FAA is taking an incremental approach to safe UAS integration. Beginning December 21, 2015, all model aircraft that have a flight weight of more than 250g (.55lb) and less than 55 lbs. will need to be registered before being flown outdoors. This includes the millions of UAS that were previously purchased and flown. UAS weighing more than 55 lbs. will have to be registered using a different method.
So, what’s in the new regulations? Nothing that should squash anyone’s fun.
- The owner of a drone must register, using their email address, mailing address and submitting a $5 registration fee. A registration certificate is then issued to the owner and that number must be placed on any drone that meets the registration requirement. That same registration number gets applied to all of one owner’s drones.
- Drones can be flown only for hobby or recreational purposes
- Must be flown below 400 feet
- Must be kept away from airports or any manned aircraft
- Must avoid sporting events or crowds of people
- Must not enter restricted airspace
- Must be kept clear of emergency response efforts
As an owner of at least one quadcopter that falls into the classification requiring registration, I welcome the new regulations. I realize that, when flying these machines, I have a responsibility to keep people and property around me as safe as possible. The registration, which I actually consider more of a pilot registration than a drone registration, is simply designed to communicate some simple safety rules and make sure there is accountability in the case of an incident.