December 2, 2015Client Alert

Drones: Mandatory Registration Requirement Including Recreation/Hobby Owners

In our August 2015 Technology Alert, we discussed the current regulations that apply to commercial operators of drones (also referred to as UAVs or UASs). On October 19, 2015, in an effort to curtail drone flights by recreational users or hobbyists that pose a danger to commercial aircraft and crowded public venues, the Obama administration created a task force of private sector and government representatives to make recommendations to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding a federal registry for all drones. 

The recommendations of the task force were issued in a final report on November 21. As noted in the final report, the stated objective of the task force was to develop recommendations for the creation of a registration process, which ultimately would contribute to an enforceable rule imposed by the FAA. The FAA stated that the intent of establishing this registration framework was to promote a culture of accountability while achieving a maximum level of compliance. 

The task force recommendations for the registration process can be summarized as follows:

  1. Fill out an electronic registration form through the Internet or through an application;
  2. Immediately receive an electronic certificate of registration and a personal universal registration number for use on all drones owned by that person; and
  3. Mark the registration number (or registered serial number) on all applicable drones prior to their operation in the national airspace.

This registration requirement would apply to all drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and are above 250 grams maximum takeoff weight, and are operated outdoors in the national airspace. This means there is an exception to this recommended registration process. The task force recommended to the FAA that drones weighing less than 250 grams maximum takeoff weight be excluded from this registration requirement. Again, the registration system would be owner-based, so each registrant would have a single registration number that covers any and all drones that registrant owns. Registration would be mandatory prior to operation of a drone in the national airspace. Each registrant would be required to provide their name and street address. Information such as a mailing address, email address, telephone number and serial number of the aircraft would be optional. Registrants would have to be 13 years of age or older to register. The task force further recommended that there be no registration fee and recommended that a certificate of registration be sent to the registrant at the time of registration. Finally, the registrant would have to affix the issued registration number to the aircraft prior to use in the national airspace. The marking would have to be readily accessible and maintained in a condition that is readable and legible upon close visual inspection. 

How the FAA will choose to implement the recommendations of the task force in a final rule is yet to be seen. The Obama administration hopes to have the final rule and registry in place before December 25, 2015. Stay tuned.

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