U.S. Drone Registration Celebrates 1 Million Milestone

The total number of drones now registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now surpassed one million, as announced on Wednesday by U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.

The one million registration figure includes 878,000 hobbyists, who receive one identification number for all the drones they own, and 122,000 commercial, public and other drones, which are individually registered, the DOT explains.

According to the DOT, in addition to being required by law, the registration process helps educate drone operators who are new to aviation by having them agree to the FAA’s operating rules and increases airspace security by identifying drones with their owner. The agency says it has also used the registration database to push important safety messages to drone users.

The DOT and FAA first announced the initiative in an October 2015 press conference. The specifics of the registration rules were then recommended by a multidisciplinary group selected by the DOT and FAA. Under the final rules, unmanned aircraft weighing over 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and under 55 pounds, including payloads such as onboard cameras, were required to be registered.

Registration became effective for both recreational and non-recreational drone operators on Dec. 21, 2015. The FAA opened up the Web-based system to recreational UAS pilots on that day and then expanded it to commercial, public and other non-hobbyist operators in March 2016 (who previously had to use a paper-based system.)

In May 2017, a federal appeals court ruled that the FAA violated the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 when it placed registration requirements on hobbyists, and registration for recreational operators was then dropped. However, the requirement was recently reinstated in the National Defense Authorization Act, passed in December.

“The tremendous growth in drone registration reflects the fact that they are more than tools for commerce and trade but can save lives, detect hazardous situations and assist with disaster recovery,” said Chao. “The challenge is to remove unnecessary hurdles to enable the safe testing and integration of this technology into our country’s airspace.”

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