Drone Registration Celebrates First Birthday: How Has it Fared?

Today, Dec. 21, marks the one-year anniversary of the establishment of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) registration system for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

To mark the milestone, the agency has offered updates on how it’s been working over the past year: So far, according to the FAA, the system has registered a whopping 616,000 drone owners.

The agency opened up the Web-based system to recreational UAS pilots on Dec. 21 and expanded it to commercial, public and other non-model aircraft operators in March of this year (who previously had to use a paper-based system.)

As part of the registration process, the FAA notes, applicants receive “basic safety information.” In turn, more than 600,000 UAS operators now possess “basic aviation knowledge to keep themselves and their friends and neighbors safe when they fly,” the agency points out.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and FAA first announced the initiative in an October 2015 press conference.

“It’s really hard to follow rules if you don’t know what the rules are – or that the rules apply to you,” said Anthony Foxx, U.S. secretary of transportation, at the conference. “Registration gives operators the opportunity to learn the airspace rules before they fly and enjoy their devices safely.”

The specifics of the registration rules were then recommended by a multidisciplinary group selected by the DOT and FAA.

Under the rules, operators must register drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approximately 25 kilograms).

“The rule and the registration system were primarily aimed at the thousands of drone hobbyists who had little or no experience with the U.S. aviation system,” the FAA says in a news post. “The agency saw registration as an excellent way to give them a sense of responsibility and accountability for their actions. The agency wanted them to feel they are part of the aviation community – to see themselves as pilots.”

In conclusion, the FAA claims the registration system has been an “unqualified success.”

“The FAA is confident the system will continue to help drone pilots – experienced or newcomers – recognize that safety is everybody’s business.”

The agency has also made another notable statement: There are now more than twice as many drones as manned aircraft in U.S. airspace.

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