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H. Michael Miley / flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

FAA says drone owners’ addresses and names will be searchable in government database

Seems fair.


Mary Emily O'Hara


When the Firearm Owners Protection Act was passed in 1986, it barred the federal government from keeping a public database of citizens that own guns.

But now, the federal government is making a public database of citizens who own hobby drones (otherwise known as model aircraft). And the database will allow anyone with Internet access to find someone’s name and home address just by searching the drone’s registration number—including kids as young as 13.

The discovery came Friday, when Forbes contributor John Goglia finally got a response to a series of emails he’d written the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address. When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches,” an FAA spokesperson told Forbes in the email Friday. 

Goglia wrote that the FAA website made a contradictory statement, leading the public to believe that only the government, law enforcement agencies, and the FAA’s contractor would have access to the database. But in a separate legal filing, the Department of Transportation (DOT) insinuated that the database would be searchable by the public.

“All records maintained by the FAA in connection with aircraft registered are included in the Aircraft Registry and made available to the public, except email address and credit card information submitted under part 48 [the new model aircraft registry],” read the DOT filing.

Owners of hobby drones won’t just have their names and addresses vulnerable to the public; they’ll even have to pay for the privilege. Starting now, all commercial model aircraft owners will have to submit their information to the registry along with a $5 fee—though the fee is waived for the first 30 days.

Registration begins on Monday, Dec. 21 with a deadline of Feb. 19.

The FAA initially formed a task force to consult on a possible registration system after news surfaced of over 300 “potentially dangerous” incidents involving model aircraft over the past two years. 

Very few deaths, though, have been caused by hobby drones in the U.S. (not to be confused with military drone strikes). In September 2013, a 19-year-old New Yorker was manning a model helicopter several feet long when it struck him in the head and killed him.

In early December, as the FAA task force was wrapping up its conclusions regarding the drone registry, the U.S. suffered its 355th mass shooting of 2015. According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gun violence now kills more Americans per year than car crashes—with approximately 30,000 Americans killed by gunfire per year.

There have been no indications of repealing the Firearm Owners Protection Act to create a publicly searchable database of gun owners as a result. 

H/T Forbes | Photo via H. Michael Miley/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

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