Whether you are expecting to unwrap an unmanned aircraft (drone or UAS) this year, or to give this highly popular device as a gift, take heed of a new regulation enacted by the FAA on Dec. 14, 2015. In anticipation of nearly 400,000 drones expected to be sold over the holidays, and citing a surge in “close call” incidents involving drones flying too close to traditional aircraft or in prohibited spaces, the FAA announced it will require registration of small UAS devices which are used for hobby/recreation just in time for the 2015 holiday season. After Dec. 21, 2015, any owner of a small drone (more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (~25 kilograms) including payloads such as cameras) must register with the FAA. Owners of any UAS purchased after Dec. 21, 2015, must register before the first flight outdoors. Those owners who previously operated an unmanned aircraft prior to Dec. 21, 2015, must register the device no later than Feb. 19, 2016.   

Owners may register through a web-based system at www.faa.gov/uas/registration.   

Upon completion of the registration process, the FAA will issue a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership, along with an identification number unique to the owner, which must be placed on the aircraft. Owners using the UAS for hobby or recreation will only have to register once, and may use the same identification number for all of their UAS devices. The registration is valid for three years, and will cost $5. However, the FAA is granting a one-time exemption from this fee for the first 30 days (Dec. 21, 2015, through and including Jan. 20, 2016) to encourage as many owners as possible to register quickly.   

The web-based registration system does not currently support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation (i.e., commercial use). Commercial use of drones remains prohibited under federal law, unless an exemption is first obtained from the FAA.  Please contact Jonathan Leleu or Adam Siegler directly for further information. 

The complete FAA Regulation may be viewed here.