Just in time for the holidays, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this week announced that individuals with drones that weigh more than half a pound (.55 pounds or 250 grams, to be exact) will have to register it with the FAA. On top of that, the registration process requires drone owners to fork over $5. Most common consumer drones such as the 3DR Iris and Solo and the Phantom and Inspire series drones from DJI would be subject to this registration requirements.
As a long time drone pilot with many hundreds of hours of flying without incident, I support the registration requirement provided the FAA creates a convenient, web based interface to register people’s drones. FAA’s current procedure to obtain a “N Number” is entire paper based and very cumbersome. I tried obtaining a N number for my 3DR Iris drone and gave up after many months of back and forth with the FAA over issues like the “serial number of the engines”, which makes sense to ask for a real airplane but has no relevance for a brushless motor driven quadcopter drone.
The registration system will create an easier way for the FAA and other law enforcement agencies to trace drones to their owners thereby putting some fear in the minds of those who might be tempted to use their drones in recklessly. We all know that it will take no more than one drone collision with a passenger airplane for the government to impose crushing regulations on this exciting and fast growing industry, whose true potential is still being discovered. I therefore urge all drone owners to promptly register their drones with the FAA. I certainly plan to do so as soon as the registration opens on Dec 21.
The FAA should go further by streamlining the rules around the commercial use of drones. The current section 333 exemption process is unnecessarily burdensome and takes a long time. It also makes little sense to require a certified pilot to pilot the drones for commercial purposes, when it is clear that the skills required to fly a quadcopter are totally different from those required to pilot a manned aircraft.
Interestingly, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is quite disappointing with the FAA’s ruling and are urging their members to withhold registering their aircraft until the AMA has received further clarifications. The AMA argued throughout the rule making process that while the registration makes sense at some level, it should only apply to those operating outside the guidance of a community-based organization (such as them) or flying for commercial purposes. It will be interesting to see if AMA members are able to use their AMA number to register their aircraft or receive some sort of exemption from this registration requirement.
Exciting times ahead! 🙂