Consumer-piloted drones can and have caused a good deal of concern over the past year or two, with one even landing on the White House lawn at the beginning of the year (it was an accident and no harm came from it). It was only a matter of time before the FAA stepped in and attempted some sort of regulation, and now all consumer drones weighing between 0.55 and 50 pounds must be registered by February 19th, 2016.

Although you can begin the process now, you can’t actually fully register until December 21st. Registration is free for the first 30 days, but after that it will include a $5 fee. The free period is meant to act as incentive towards those who need to register. I think a much bigger incentive is avoiding the fines you’ll face if caught with an unregistered drone: up to $27,500 for civil penalties and up to $250,000 and three years in jail for criminal penalties.

Registering will give you an identification number, which must be displayed on the drone somewhere. The timing of the new registration act isn’t incidental: the FAA expects hundreds of thousands of drones to be purchased as holiday gifts and they’re clearly trying to get on top of the situation before it gets out of control.


This isn’t surprising in the least. While most drone pilots are harmless hobbyists, there’s plenty of potential to wreak havoc with even cheap toy drones. Flying in restricted airspace is one potential threat that’s occured on a few occasions, and with the amount of drones going up, so will the incidents. The FAA did point out that anyone under 13-years-old couldn’t register online, meaning that a parent will have to do it for them. That’s the part of this that’s a little surreal to me, the idea that a toy you bought for your child will have to be registered with the government. It’s a strange new world we live in.

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