The Federal Aviation Administration oversees all flights in the United States - and the rise of consumer-ready flying drones hasn't fit in well with its traditional regulations. So they're asking all drone owners to make themselves known.
If you have a flying drone in the United States that weighs between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, the FAA says you must register it by 19 February 2016 to avoid potential penalties for unlawful use. A US$5 fee typically applies, but it's being waived for the first 30 days of sign-ups to try and encourage owners to get legal in a hurry.
“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility," said Anthony Foxx, the U.S. transportation secretary. "Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation."
Registration will begin on 21 December, and the free period lasts through 20 January 2016. Owners must be at least 13 years of age to register their drone(s), and will have to provide both email and home addresses to complete the process. Once registered, the owner will be provided an identification number that must be visible on the drone itself.
"We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season," said Michael Huerta, the FAA's administrator. "Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly."
Why register? Well, as The Verge points out, civil fines could run as high as US$27,500 (about £18,000), with criminal penalties ranging up to US$250,000 (nearly £165,000) and three years in jail - although we doubt registration will save you any flak if you're using a drone for criminal purposes. This registration initiative isn't for commercial drones, but the FAA is apparently working on a form for that purpose for next spring.