If you own a drone, the government wants to know. As of February 19, all drones that weigh more than half a pound and less than 55 pounds must be registered online with the Federal Aviation Administration.
If you own a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds, you have to register it as an aircraft, which is a longer process. But realistically, if you’re flying something that weighs more than a medium sized dog through the air, you should probably know that already. For reference, here is a list of the types of unmanned air vehicles you do and do not need to register. Essentially, if it’s a small toy helicopter you’re fine; but if it’s a DGI Phantom or equivalent, it’s gotta go on the list.
For civilian, non-commercial users, however, it’s relatively easy. The FAA website had some issues at the beginning, but seems to be working fine now. In fact, the FAA recently announced that there were more registered drones in the United States than manned aircraft.
It costs $5 to register, payable by any major credit or debit card, and you’ll need both an email address and a physical address. Once you register, you’ll be given a registration number and will need to label your drone before flying it again. So far, the FAA says they 342,000 registered drones. If you don’t register, you could face civil and criminal penalties. Any individual over the age of 13 can register, but know that your name and registration information will appear in a public database online. It’s also worth noting that if you use the drone for commercial purposes, like filmmakers or companies that use them for various reasons, you have to go through the longer aircraft registration process.
Still, the FAA is committed to getting as many drones registered as possible, as the more flying objects there are in the air, the more likely collisions with actual aircraft are.