As the world goes more and more high-tech, consumers need to be increasingly informed about the devices they purchase or are given. Aside from the basics, like how to use it, devices like drones require even more awareness. They’re not just fun and games.

Here's How To Register Your sUAS Drone With The FAA

For example, did you know that if you have a drone that weighs at least 0.55 pounds, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration? (Note: the FAA warned about a registration scam last month. Make sure you register directly through the FAA and not through any company that offers to register your aircraft for you.)

When must you register your drone?

The FAA requires all small unmanned aircraft systems, or sUAS, weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds to be registered. And the fines for those who fail to register their drones aren’t cheap. If you don’t register your sUAS, you could face civil and/ or criminal penalties with fines reaching as high as $27,500.

Note: the agency defines “small unmanned aircraft as “an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft” and a “small unmanned aircraft” as “an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is onboard or attached to the aircraft.” A “small unmanned aircraft system” is defined as “a small unmanned aircraft and its associated elements,” i.e., the remote used to control, which places drones and hobby airplanes in this final category.

Online registrations accepted for sUASs

The good news is that if your drone falls between the weight requirements of 0.55 and 55 pounds, the registration process is easy because you can do it online. However, if it weighs more than 55 pounds, you must register using the paper form. The FAA makes distinctions between “small unmanned aircraft,” “unmanned aircraft,” and “small unmanned aircraft system.”

In addition to the weight guidelines, there are also two other requirements for using the online form to register a drone. The drone must be owned by an individual person (not a company or “non-individuals”) and must be used for only recreational purposes. This means that hobby and model airplanes must also be registered with the FAA if they meet the weight requirements. It should also be noted that the registered owner must be 13 years of age or older.

Traditional aircraft registration is currently required for drones or unmanned aircraft that weigh at least 55 pounds and sUA which will be used internationally, have loan, lease, or ownership documents that must be recorded, are used recreationally but owned by a non-individual, or are used for either non-recreational or commercial purposes.

How to register your small drone with the FAA

So here are basic instructions for registering your drone, assuming you fit all the requirements for using the online system:

  1. Go to the FAA’s website for sUAS here.
  2. Just click the large button which reads “Register my drone.”
  3. Click through the pages to create an account with your email address and password.
  4. Click the link in the email sent by the FAA to your address to verify the new account.
  5. Then click “I agree” to the notice with the legal language to indicate acceptance of the site’s usage notice.
  6. Enter your name, address, and the other required information to complete the registration process and then click “Proceed to checkout.”
  7. Review the FAA’s laws and abide by them when operating your drone. The laws require that you: 1) Fly below 400 feet; 2) Remain in visual sight of the aircraft; 3) Don’t fly over people, stadiums, sporting events, or emergency events; 4) Don’t fly the aircraft near airports or airplanes; 5) Don’t fly the drone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  8. Pay the $5 registration fee. (Note: the $5 will be refunded if you register before Jan. 20.)
  9. Write the provided registration number on your drone or aircraft.

Drone registrations last for up to three years from the date when they were issued. If you fail to register your aircraft by Feb. 19, you may be liable for criminal or civil penalties.

The FAA plans to open online registrations for recreational small unmanned aircraft (SUA) owned by companies or non-individuals and for SUA that are used for either non-recreational or commercial purposes on March 31.

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