If you’re like me – and by that I mean a photography enthusiast who gets spammed by every retailer of camera stuff out there – you’ll have noticed that the market for civilian drones has really taken off this year. If you haven’t seen these things yet, they’re the small helicopters, usually with cameras mounted, that many photographers and videographers are now using to capture stunning aerial footage and annoy visitors at monuments and tourist attractions.
Unfortunately they have also featured prominently in such recent news gems as “Kentucky Man Shoots Low Flying Drone With a Shotgun,” “Drone Just Barely Misses Austrian Skier” and “Close Calls Between Drones and Planes on the Rise.” Unfortunately, problems are to be expected, since there is no sort of training requirement to buy or use a drone recreationally, but now the inevitable legal backlash is here in the form of new federal regulations.
The one that most concerns most recreational users is registration. All drone owners in the US must register with the FAA and mark their drones with their registration number. Starting February 19th, any unregistered drone use could result in a very stiff fine.
The FAA operates a drone registration web site, and charges $5 per three years. Anybody registering before January 20th will receive a refund of the $5 fee. Registration is per user, not per drone. If you have more than one drone, you only need to go through the registration once and receive a registration number that you can put on all of your drones. If you don’t have a drone but plan to get one, register now to save the $5.
This applies only to drones that weight 250 grams or more, so the smallest toy helicopters do not require registration. It also applies to recreational use only. Commercial users have a more complex registration process and require certifications for the user.