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FAA says 180,000 have joined drone registry as it launches new B4-U-FLY app

The Federal Aviation Administration’s recently launched drone database is growing steadily in size, with more than 180,000 owners registering their flying machines in less than three weeks.

Speaking at CES, FAA administrator Michael Huerta said the agency was “encouraged by the registration numbers” seen so far. However, with as many as a million units flying off the shelves in the last month alone, the figure suggests many people are either taking their time to register, or are unaware that registration is mandatory. It’s also thought that some are reluctant to add their details after recent reports pointed out that the data will be publicly available.

To encourage people to sign up sooner rather than later, the FAA is waiving the $5 fee until January 20. Everyone with an unmanned aerial vehicle weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms) must register their machine by February 19.

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The database was set up in response to increasing reports of dangerous drone flights, with some reckless owners operating their machines close to places like airports as well as over large crowds at special events.

The FAA says the system will “foster a greater awareness on the part of users to learn the rules about flying safely” in U.S. airspace, and will also help the authorities to quickly trace ownership of a drone in the event of an incident.

Part of its efforts to teach owners about drone safety include the official launch on Wednesday of its iOS B4UFLY app after more than six months in beta.

The app lets you know if there are any flight restrictions at your current location. Responses could include, “Proceed with Caution,” “Warning – Action Required,” or “Flight Prohibited.”

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B4UFLY also includes a planner mode that allows drone pilots to select a different date and location for an upcoming flight to find out if any restrictions will be in place at that time.

The new app is available for free in the iTunes app store, while Android users are currently being invited to try a test version of the app by clicking here.

Want to register your drone? Find out more on the FAA’s site here.