Yesterday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the creation of a task force charged with developing a registration process for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, for both commercial and hobbyist use. Secretary Foxx directed the task force to deliver its recommendations by November 20, with the goal of having final registration rules in place by mid-December.

In a surprise move, DOT just posted a document, Clarification of the Applicability of Aircraft Registration Requirements for UAS and Request for Information Regarding Electronic Registration for UAS, to the Federal Register for public comment. In the clarification and request for information, DOT is soliciting recommendations on all aspects of the UAS registration process, including which UAS should be exempt from the registration requirement.

The clarification and request for information requests that comments be received within 15 days after the official date of publication in the Federal Register, although the comment period reportedly will remain open for the near future. Of course, given the Secretary’s expedited timeline, comments submitted after the 15-day period will be less likely to influence the recommendations made by the UAS registration task force. Given the condensed timeframe for issuing a final rule, the document will likely be published in the Federal Register within the next day or two.

In addition to clarifying applicable statutory requirements regarding UAS registration, DOT is requesting “information and recommendations regarding what information and registration platform would be appropriate for UAS registration and ways to minimize the burden to the regulated community.” DOT is also requesting comments on which UAS, in terms of weight or performance capabilities, should remain exempt from the registration requirements because of the negligible
risk they pose to the national airspace system (NAS).

To facilitate the task force’s work in developing UAS registration procedures, DOT is requesting information and data from the public in the following areas:

  1. What methods are available for identifying individual products? Does every UAS sold have an individual serial number? Is there another method for identifying individual products sold without serial numbers or those built from kits?
  2. At what point should registration occur (e.g. point-of-sale or prior-to-operation)? How should transfers of ownership be addressed in registration?
  3. If registration occurs at point-of-sale, who should be responsible for submission of the data? What burdens would be placed on vendors of UAS if DOT required registration to occur at point-of-sale? What are the advantages of a point-of-sale approach relative to a prior-to-operation approach?
  4. Consistent with past practice of discretion, should certain UAS be excluded from registration based on performance capabilities or other characteristics that could be associated with safety risk, such as weight, speed, altitude operating limitations, duration of flight? If so, please submit information or data to help support the suggestions, and whether any other criteria should be considered.
  5. How should a registration process be designed to minimize burdens and best protect innovation and encourage growth in the UAS industry?
  6. Should the registration be electronic or web-based? Are there existing tools that could support an electronic registration process?
  7. What type of information should be collected during the registration process to positively identify the aircraft owner and aircraft?
  8. How should the registration data be stored? Who should have access to the registration data? How should the data be used?
  9. Should a registration fee be collected and if so, how will the registration fee be collected if registration occurs at point-of-sale? Are there payment services that can be leveraged to assist (e.g. PayPal)?
  10. Are there additional means beyond aircraft registration to encourage accountability and responsible use of UAS?

Whether you are a UAS manufacturer, operator, or user, the comment period offers all industry stakeholders an opportunity to shape UAS regulation and policy.