Drones purchased in the United States after 20 December 2016 must be registered

December 16, 2015 |

The regulation of all drones in the United States is almost a reality.  To date the patchwork of regulations has either concentrated on commercially operated drones or involved State based restrictions on the less savoury and responsible use of drones.  In the last 12 months the previously laconic approach to regulating all drone usage at a Federal level, which generally focused more on talking than doing, has become one of urgent action.  That is largely to do with the extraordinary growth in the sales of drones and their increasing capabilities, which includes the ability to create havoc.  Drones have been held responsible for hindering fire fighting, intruding into commercial flight paths (and in Australia) and being used as a burglar’s tool (to target homes).

Given the huge number of drones expected to be given as gifts or otherwise purchased over the Christmas period the Federal Aviation Authority has taken action.  It announced that small drones, weighing more than 250 grams and less than 25 kilograms, purchased from 21 December 2015 must be registered. Those who already have drones have until 19 February 2016 to register. In Australia CASA is going through a review of its regulations and is due to make an announcement next year.  CASA was once a leader in this area with the specific regulations. It’s enforcement of those regulations was patchy.

The FAA’s announcement is a welcome development.  Registration of drones makes sense much like registration of cars made sense once they became a fixture on the roads.  But it is only a partial solution to a growing problem.  The FAA’s and CASA’s, in Australia,  remit extends only air safety and transport.  It does not go to privacy where misuse, alongside its many very positive uses of drones, is a real issue.  The law in Australia is hopelessly inadequate.  The Privacy Act would not apply to personal information collected by the vast majority of drone operators.  The law is ill equipped to deal with intrusive use of drones over a property or a person.  It may be possible to identify the drone and the operator, particularly if a registration system is established.  It is much harder to do something about it.  Without a tort of privacy a complainant has to rely on a cobbled together claim in equity, nuisance and/or trespass.  It is a major failing of public policy.

The FAA media release provides:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced a streamlined and user-friendly web-based aircraft registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms) including payloads such as on-board cameras.

The Registration Task Force delivered recommendations to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on November 21. The rule incorporates many of the task force recommendations.

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”

Registration is a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft.  Under this rule, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to December 21, 2015, must register no later than February 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after December 21, 2015 must register before the first flight outdoors. Owners may use either the paper-based process or the new streamlined, web-based system.  Owners using the new streamlined web-based system must be at least 13 years old to register.

Owners may register through a web-based system at www.faa.gov/uas/registration

Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and e-mail address. Upon completion of the registration process, the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft.

Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS. The registration is valid for three years.

The normal registration fee is $5, but in an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA is waiving this fee for the first 30 days (from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan 20, 2016).

“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” said FAA Administrator Huerta. “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 online registration 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 is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring of 2016.

  The FAA announcement has been reported on by the BBC in US hobbyists ‘must register drones’ from 21 December.

2 Responses to “Drones purchased in the United States after 20 December 2016 must be registered”

  1. Drones purchased in the United States after 20 December 2016 must be registered | Australian Law Blogs

    […] Drones purchased in the United States after 20 December 2016 must be registered […]

  2. It's me

    Peter,

    Three paragraphs of exceptionally good reading.

    Great work !

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