Feds approve drone registration rules

If you get a drone for the holidays this year, the federal government may want to know about it.

As expected, the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday adopted new rules that will require owners of certain unmanned aerial vehicles to register with the agency. The registration should be relatively quick and easy, and for a short time, will be free. But it marks the first time the agency has regulated drones and unmanned aircraft flown by hobbyists and modelers.

“Unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”

The rules apply to unmanned flying vehicles that are between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds that are used for recreational purposes. They govern all aircraft in that category, including not just drones, but model airplanes and helicopters. Owners can register either online on the FAA’s Web site or via a paper form.

Unlike other forms of aircraft registration, drone owners aren’t required to register individual aircraft. Instead, the owners register themselves, providing their name, physical address and email address. When they do, they’ll get an identification number from the agency that they are required to label on all of their unmanned aircraft.

Consumers who receive a drone after December 21 are required to register with the agency before they fly their vehicles. Those who purchased or received a drone before then have until February 19 to register. Registration will cost $5, and drone owners will have to renew it every three years. The agency is waiving the fee until January 20.

The new rules don’t apply to drones and model aircraft that are less than 0.55 pounds, because the agency considers them to be toys that don’t pose a threat to standard aircraft. The agency previously required unmanned vehicles larger than 55 pounds to be registered with its existing paper-based system.

Owners of Parrot’s MiniDrones and like-sized vehicles would not have to register with the FAA under the new rules. But the regulation would apply to owners of the company’s AR Drone 2.0 and Bebop vehicles.

The regulation also does not apply to commercial drones or those operated by corporations. The FAA is working on separate rules that will govern them.

Consumers are expected to purchase hundreds of thousands of drones this holiday season. The agency has raised concerns about a growing number of potentially dangerous incidents involving such vehicles that have been reported to it.

Photo: File photo of a small remote-controlled drone. (ROBERT MACPHERSON/AFP/Getty Images)


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