The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced the interim final rules regarding registration for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the U.S.
The agency, which calls the process streamlined, user-friendly and Web-based, says the rules incorporate many of the task force’s recommendations, which were proposed to the FAA last month. The U.S. Department of Transportation and FAA first announced the initiative in an October press conference.
Under the rules, owners of UAS weighing between 0.55 lbs. (250 grams) and 55 lbs. (approximately 25 kg), including payloads, will need to register their aircraft. Registrants must be at least 13 years old; if the owner is younger than 13, someone older must register the aircraft.
Although the task force recommended that the process be free, the FAA says it will be $5; however, the agency is waiving the fee for the first 30 days (Dec. 21-Jan. 20) in an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly.
The registration is valid for three years; renewal will also include a $5 fee. The FAA says it is hiring a contractor to maintain the database. According to the agency, the fee will go toward the costs of creating and maintaining the Web-based registry system. The FAA adds that it is legally required to charge a fee.
Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and email address. Upon completion of the registration process, the Web application will generate a certificate of aircraft registration/proof of ownership, which will give the UAS owner a unique identification number, which must be marked on all aircraft. Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will have to register only once and may use the same identification number for all of their UAS.
The agency says the Web-based system does not yet support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation – for example, using an unmanned aircraft in connection with a business. The FAA says it is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring 2016.
Individual recreational users do not have to enter the make, model and serial number. All others will be required to provide this information when the website is available to all other users.
Under this new rule, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to Dec. 21 must register no later than Feb. 19, 2016.
Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after Dec. 21 must register before the first flight outdoors. Owners may use either the paper-based process or the new Web-based system.
The agency says failure to register may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions, including fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.
In addition, the FAA explains in the rules that registration “also provides an immediate and direct opportunity for the agency to educate sUAS owners on safety requirements before they begin operating.”
“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” states Anthony Foxx, U.S. secretary of transportation. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”
Michael Huerta, FAA administrator, adds, “We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season. Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.”
The full rules are available here.