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It's Time to Register Your Small Drones Again

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Drone hobbyists have had a whirlwind of a time when it comes to registering their devices. In December of 2015, the FAA required that owners of small devices had to register their vehicles for a small fee. But then, in May of this year, that rule was revoked, and owners could get their five-dollar registration fee back. Today, however, President Trump reinstated the rule when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act.

The original registration rule required any owner of an unmanned aerial vehicle weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to register their aircraft with the FAA. That rule was successfully challenged in court for violating a 2012 law that prohibited the FAA from regulating model aircraft. But a one paragraph section in today’s massive defense bill simply states the rule “shall be restored.”


“The risk of unsafe operation will increase as more small unmanned aircraft enter the NAS,” a document explaining the original rule reads. “Registration will provide a means by which to quickly identify these small unmanned aircraft in the event of an incident or accident involving the UAS. Registration of small unmanned aircraft also provides an immediate and direct opportunity for the agency to educate sUAS owners on safety requirements before they begin operating.”

According to Gartner, sales of personal and commercial drones are expected to reach over $6 billion this year and more than $11.2 billion by 2020, with nearly three million devices manufactured this year alone. That’s a lot of hardware whirring around up there.


An FAA spokesperson said the registration requirement goes into effect immediately. “We welcome the reinstatement of registration rules for all small unmanned aircraft,” the spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. “Ownership identification helps promote safe and responsible drone operation and is a key component to full integration.”