Thousands of people each day fly a drone for the first time in the United States, and in response the nation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided to enact a series of regulations and laws surrounding drone use.
Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), may or may not need to be registered.
Below we will explain exactly which types of drones need to be registered, and we’ll explain the process and cost of obtaining the proper FAA registration for your drone.
Weight Restrictions for Registering a Drone
The FAA has placed very specific weight limits on drones flying in American airspace.
Drones that weigh less than 0.55 pounds (approximate 8.8 ounces or 250 grams) do not need to be registered. Drones of this size include mini-drones, but many full-size drones will exceed this minimum.
Drones that weigh between .55 pounds and 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA when it is first purchased and when ownership changes hands. The majority of UAVs fall into this weight category.
Drones that weigh 55 pounds or more on takeoff are not eligible for registration as civilian UAVs. The FAA’s website states that you need to file for a traditional aircraft permit.
Additionally, these regulations are the federal norm but certain areas may be off limits to drones completely so you should find out what your state and local laws saw about flying/registering a drone before taking off.
Other Drone Registration Requirements
Fortunately for recreational pilots there aren’t too many requisites for registering a drone other than meeting weight requirements. Of course, UAV pilots are expected to yield the right-of-way to manned aircraft at all times, and the FAA insists that you stay at least five miles away from airports without prior expressed consent from the airport(s) in question.
If you are registering a drone for work purposes then there are a few more requirements. You must be at least 16 years old and pass a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) vetting. You’ll also need a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate for work-related drone registration.
You will be restricted to Class G airspace and you must fly during the day.
Drones must not be launched or controlled from a moving vehicle, and all drones must stay at an altitude of 400 feet or lower at all times.
Lastly, you must not fly over people and you can never fly a drone faster than 100 miles per hour.
FAA Drone Registration Fees
Drones that meet the FAA’s requirements are subject to mandatory registration at a cost of $5. Drones cannot be registered together and you must re-register your drone with a new registration number each time ownership changes.
You can pay this fee online or by submitting a form by mail.
At times, the FAA will announce that it will waive the registration fee for people who register their drones before a certain date. This is done in order to encourage more people to register so that the FAA can have more accurate numbers about how many UAVs are operating within the United States.
Drone pilots who plan to use their UAVs for work-related purposes will need to acquire a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate for about $150 at various certified knowledge testing centers.
The penalty for failing to properly register a drone can be as much as $27,500 for a civil fee, or $250,000 plus criminal penalties for criminal activity.
Again, exact registration fees may be slightly higher if your state or municipality has extra laws regarding drones.
FAA Drone Registration Process
The FAA drone registration is relatively straightforward and simple.
First, you need to make sure that your drone meets the requirements for needing to be registered.
Next, you should make sure that you meet the FAA’s requirements for pilots.
You can fill out a form and submit it to the FAA, but if you are reading this article online then you’ll probably find it easier to register your drone online.
After you create an account you’ll be asked for some basic information such as your name, address, telephone number, etc.
You’ll also be asked some specific questions about your drone such as the make, model, and serial number.
When you are finished filling out the application you simply read the Terms & Conditions before submitting your payment information and clicking “Submit” to process the registration.
You’ll receive a UAS registration number, and you should place this number on your drone using a piece of tape or a permanent marker.
Registering your drone with the FAA isn’t that big of a deal; it only takes a few minutes and it only costs $5.
The registration process is meant to keep everyone safe, and the FAA firmly believes that the current drone registration system is the best way to go.
Keep in mind that some companies will charge you more than $5 to register your drone because they claim to make the process “easier,” but at the end of the day they will still need all the information the FAA would ask you for anyway.
Other companies will charge you $5 but claim that this is an annual charge, which it is not.
It only takes a few minutes to register your drone yourself, and the penalties for non-compliance just aren’t worth saving $5 and 15 minutes.
Always keep in mind that the FAA is a federal agency, and there might be more licensing, certification and registration requirements depending on where you live.
If you have any further questions regarding this topic, or if you have stumbled upon additional registration requirements for the area in which you live, we’d love to hear from you in the Comments section.
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