The drone database is back, and most owners must register their details

Dan Baker/Digital Trends
Millions of Americans will be unwrapping a new drone this Christmas, but before they fly it, there’s something that needs to be done.


That’s right, following a pause in mandatory registration for much of this year over a legal issue, new drone owners must now submit their details to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if they haven’t already done so.

It’s the result of a tiny segment of text in the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, December 12, which describes the “restoration of rules” for the registration of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The FAA says it “welcomes the reinstatement of registration rules for all small unmanned aircraft” as a way of helping to encourage safe and responsible drone flights.

Registration with the FAA involves providing your name, home address, and email address. You’ll then receive a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership and a unique ID number on a sticker to affix to your aircraft. That way, if you do something dodgy with your drone and the authorities seize it, they can seize you, too.

The drone registry launched at the tail end of 2015, forcing anyone with a machine weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds (in other words, pretty much all consumer drones) to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration for a fee of $5.

Around a million drone owners went through the process until May, when a U.S. appeals court affirmed an earlier lower court ruling that stated the policy was in violation of a preexisting law banning regulation of model aircraft. That meant drone owners no longer had to register their machine, though the FAA urged them to do so on a voluntary basis.

When May’s court ruling was given, some in the industry lamented the hit to the registration scheme. Speaking to Recode, DJI policy head Brendan Schulman described the FAA’s approach to drone registration as “innovative” and “very reasonable,” adding that the system “provides for accountability and education to drone pilots.”

So once again, drone owners are required to register their remotely controlled flying machines with the FAA. And yes, this also goes for owners of DJI’s diminutive Spark drone (pictured above) which weighs a mere 0.66 pounds, or 300 grams. You can do so online by visiting the FAA’s registration page. According to the FAA’s website, “You will be subject to civil and criminal penalties if you meet the criteria to register an unmanned aircraft and do not register.”

If you’re one of the many people receiving a new drone this holiday season, you might also want to check out the FAA’s apps for safe flying, called B4UFLY, for iOS and Android, as well as its useful informational video.

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