The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that all drones be registered before use. The first step in registering your drone is understanding exactly how you fly and use it. Not sure what kind of drone flyer you are? Some drone types include: Recreational Flyers & Modeler Community-Based Organizations; Certificated Remote Pilots including Commercial Operators; and Public Safety and Government. Whichever category you feel your drone usage falls under will indicate exactly how you must subsequently register your drone.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions pertaining to drone registration:
Do I have to register my drone?
Yes, all drones that weigh more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and that will be flown outside are legally required by the FAA to be registered.
What kind of drone do I have?
The following information comes directly from the FAA website, in which they seek to differentiate the different kinds of drones that exist.
Unmanned Aircraft (UA)
An aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.
Small Unmanned Aircraft (sUA)
An unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is onboard or attached to the aircraft.
Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)
A small unmanned aircraft and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the small unmanned aircraft) that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the small unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.
How can I register my drone?
In order to register your drone, you must pay a fee of $5 and supply the following information: Email address, credit or debit card, physical address and mailing address (if different from physical address), and the make and model of your unmanned aircraft. Once you receive your registration number, you must then label your drone with it. This is the website you can use to officially register your drone online. You must follow the FAA’s paper registration process if:
- Your drone weighs 55 lbs or more.
- You want to qualify a small unmanned aircraft for operation outside the U.S.
- You hold title to an aircraft in trust.
- The small unmanned aircraft owner uses a voting trust to meet U.S. citizenship requirements.
Do I ever have to renew my registration?
FAA drone registration numbers are valid for three years. After a drone’s expiration, they are legally required to be renewed. Here is a link to the FAA’s official drone registration renewal form, which should take less than five minutes to complete.
What happens if I travel abroad with my drone?
If you are planning on flying your drone outside of the United States, first and foremost, make sure it is properly and safely packed away. Packed drones should be fully turned off and packed inside special drone carrying cases. As for batteries, since most drone batteries are lithium-ion or lithium-polymer (LiPo), they should be packed in carry-on bags (unless otherwise granted permission).
Before traveling out of the US with your drone, make sure you familiarize yourself with that area’s drone laws. Here is a list of the drone laws of a variety of states and countries. Be weary of countries where drones are illegal, or where drone laws don’t exist at all. It is strongly recommended you don’t bring your drones to these countries. In addition, there are certain countries that require drone registration before visiting, so be sure to familiarize yourself with that stipulation.
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For Hobbyists or Recreational Users
If you plan to fly your drone only for fun, or for “non-commercial purposes”, the FAA provides a numbered list of important guidelines you will need to follow. These rules are more or less the same as those for commercial flyers.
- Register your drone, mark it on the outside with the registration number (PDF), and carry proof of registration with you.
- Fly only for recreational purposes.
- Follow the safety guidelines of a community based organization.
- Fly your drone at or below 400 feet when in uncontrolled or “Class G” airspace. This is airspace where the FAA is not controlling manned air traffic. To determine what type of airspace you are in, refer to the mobile application that operates your drone (if so equipped) and/or use other drone-related mobile applications. Knowing your location and what airspace you’re in will also help you avoid interfering with other aircraft.
- Do NOT fly in controlled airspace (around and above many airports) unless:
- You receive an airspace authorization for operations in controlled airspace through LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), before you fly. Learn more about approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers for recreational flyers.
- You are flying at a recreational flyer fixed site that has a written agreement with the FAA. The FAA has posted a list of approved sites (MS Excel) and has depicted them as blue dots on a map. Each fixed site is limited to the altitude shown on this map, which varies by location.
- Keep your drone within your line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you.
- Do NOT fly in airspace where flight is prohibited. The FAA provides resources where you can view airspace restrictions and temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). Drone operators are responsible for ensuring they comply with all airspace restrictions.
- Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports.
- Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people.
- Never fly near emergencies such as any type of accident response, law enforcement activities, firefighting, or hurricane recovery efforts.
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Recreational flyers should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements, and/or operate in a careless and reckless manner, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.
For more information about the specifics of registration, consult the FAA’s official registration guide.
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