Back in October, federal regulators announced that they were assembling a task force to establish a registration system applicable to recreational drones. Earlier this week, the FAA unveiled its new registration requirements just in time for the holidays.

Under the new system, recreational operators of small drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds will be required to register their machines with the FAA. Drone owners will have the option of using the web-based registration application, located at However, the deadline for registering depends on prior use: owners who operated their drones recreationally prior to December 21, 2015 must register by February 19, 2016, and all others must register before first flight.

Upon successful registration, the drone owner will then receive a registration certificate which will include a unique identification number that must then be affixed to the UAS. The registration remains valid for three years, and a registrant may use the same identification number on multiple recreational drones.

Recreational drone users have garnered a lot of negative attention in recent years – due to numerous near misses with manned aircraft and crashes at public events – and the new registration system is clearly meant to foster accountability among this group. It will now be more difficult to operate under the radar and slink away anonymously when something goes awry. Recreational users should understand the risks associated with UAS use, even when operating within FAA guidelines, and may want to consider buying insurance for protection in the future.