Photo: Hep Svadja

You may soon have to register with the FAA to fly this drone. Photo by Hep Svadja

Over the weekend, the FAA’s drone task force released its suggestions for the future regulation of drones, which include a web-based registration process for pilots of drones more than 250g (around 8.5oz), confirming earlier reports.

The weight limit is contingent on the task force’s three major recommendations to the FAA for creating a registry of drone users. According to the task force, the FAA should require drone users to:

  1. “Fill out an electronic registration form through the web or through an application (app).
  2. Immediately receive an electronic certificate of registration and a personal universal
    registration number for use on all sUAS owned by that person.
  3. Mark the registration number (or registered serial number) on all applicable sUAS prior to
    their operation in the NAS.”

The task force suggests a web or app-based registration system be created that would require users 13 and up to enter their full name and address. Anyone could be able to register, regardless of U.S citizenship. When the form is submitted, users would immediately receive a registration certificate, much like an order confirmation email, which would include a registration number that would need to be placed on the drone and easily visible upon inspection. Alternatively, users could register their drone’s serial number in lieu of a visible registration number. It’s important to note that the registration number is tied to the pilot and not to a specific drone, so if you own multiple drones or continually upgrade your DIY model you can use the same number for all of them.

It appears that earlier reports of a 9oz minimum for drone registration were spot on. The task force recommends that drones of more than 250g (around 8.5oz) would need visible registration numbers when flying outdoors. For reference, DJI’s standard Phantom 3 is 1,216g, while an entry-level GoPro camera is almost half the allowable weight at 111g.

According to the report, there was some contention arriving at the final weight cutoff, with some claiming 250g was too conservative and would require many “toy” drones to be registered. However the justification for the final weight basically comes down to how heavy a drone has to be to hurt someone or something if it falls out of the sky and how often that might happen. You can check their math in the full report.

As far as penalties, the task force doesn’t mention a specific dollar amount for failing to register or for not displaying a registration number, but they do suggest creating proportional penalties instead of keeping current registration penalties, which are upwards of $25,000 and geared toward punishing criminal activity. They also do not address how registration might be enforced.

The task force included representatives from both aviation and non-aviation groups. Drone-makers 3D Robotics, DJI, and Parrot were included, as well as aviation groups beyond the drone sector such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, American Association of Airport Executives, and Helicopter Association International. Non-aviation groups like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and GoPro were also represented and have a stake in the game since they either sell drones or market drone accessories.

According to the report, one of the unifying factors that everyone agreed upon was simplicity and ease of use for the registration system. Anything more complex, and the task force felt people would be less inclined to follow through with registration. They also suggest implementing an API for the system, so that registering your drone isn’t tied down to one government website. You could potentially register your drones from DJI or Best Buy’s website.

What do you think? Would this kind of pilot registry be onerous to the drone community, or does it seem like a reasonable response to growing concerns about irresponsible drone operation? Let us know in the comments.

[via FAA]