The FAA’s own task force recommended free registration, but the agency went a different direction.
Anyone who owns a drone weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds must register their drone in a newly established Federal Aviation Administration database, the agency said in a statement.
Registration will be free for the first month—from Dec. 21 to Jan. 20—and will cost $5 after that. In requiring a registration fee, the FAA ignored the suggestion of its drone registration task force, which had urged the agency to make registration free to encourage the widest possible compliance.
“Unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility.”
Anyone will be able to search the FAA’s database by name or address, but not by email address, according to the interim rule establishing the database.
Drone sales have skyrocketed in recent years as prices have dropped and use cases—from amateur filmmaking to home security—have proliferated. In its draft rule document, the FAA estimated that 1.6 million drones would be sold in 2015, with approximately half of those sales occurring in the fourth quarter, chiefly during holiday season.
“Since February 2015, reports of potentially unsafe UAS operations have more than doubled,” the agency said, “and many of these reports indicated that the risk to manned aviation or people and property on the ground was immediate.”
The FAA is under immense pressure to finalize rules governing the flight of both amateur and commercial drones. Airplane pilots reported 238 incidents involving drones in 2014, and that number leapt to 650 incidents from January to August 2015.
“Make no mistake: Unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”
Photo via Don McCullough/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman