A 30-day offer to register small drones for hobby use at no charge drew a crowd, the FAA reported Jan. 22. With the one-month free registration period closed, the rest of those flying small unmanned aircraft outdoors for noncommercial purposes have until Feb. 19 to complete online registration. The cost is $5 per owner, and any number of drones is covered by a single hobbyist registration; registrants are asked to provide their name, physical address, and email address.
“I am pleased the public responded to our call to register,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in the news release. “The National Airspace System is a great resource and all users of it, including UAS users, are responsible for keeping it safe.”
The FAA opened the online registry in December, and many users were quick to act. Foxx and other federal officials have said that hobbyist registration will encourage users to learn and follow the rules. It also will give law enforcement and other officials the theoretical ability to link a drone that winds up someplace it should not be with a registered owner. The registration number granted to each registrant must be displayed somewhere on the aircraft, and be readable with the naked eye.
The FAA also reported progress toward creating an online system for commercial operators (those authorized under Section 333 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act). The agency has been pressed (and has missed deadlines imposed in 2012) to finalize a regulation that will enable commercial operation of unmanned aircraft without requiring operators to petition for a Section 333 exemption, though some purposes will still require exemption from applicable regulations. It is expected that the FAA will require some level of certification for future unmanned aircraft operators; to date, all commercial unmanned aircraft are flown by pilots holding at least a sport pilot certificate.
The FAA noted in the Jan. 22 announcement that it is working to make unmanned aircraft registration for commercial operators available online by March 21. Currently, authorized commercial unmanned aircraft operators must register their systems (of whatever size) through the standard N-number system, submitting original forms by mail. That process usually requires a month or more to complete.
The FAA did not offer an update on when to expect the final rule on commercial drones, though Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker told lawmakers in October that June 17 still appeared to be a “solid date.”