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Report: FAA’s Drone Task Force to Recommend 9 Ounce Registration Requirement

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With the FAA’s drone task force three days into planning its recommendations for what type of machine you will be required to register, words are starting to leak out about how things are headed — and they’re not going the direction we’d hoped for.

The WSJ reports that three unnamed people “familiar with the matter” have told them that the recommendation on the table will be for consumers to register any flying drone 9 ounces and up with the FAA for use.

9 ounces isn’t much — the mostly-styrofoam Parrot BeBop weighs about 14 ounces. The popular DJI Phantom 3 isn’t even close, at 45 ounces. And according to 3D Robotics’ Chris Anderson (3DR Solo with gimbal and GoPro: 63 ounces), pilots will even have to register the new Millenium Falcon toy drone from Air Hogs.

Smaller rigs are still in the clear — the newer Parrot Minidrone is just 2.3 ounces, and the Microdrone 2.0 is even less, about 1.3 ounces. But still, initial discussions were expressing hope that the registration clause would take effect for machines over three pounds, not half a pound. It’s a huge difference.

The team is also considering how to deal with home-built quadcopters and such, although the Journal doesn’t mention any of those elements.

The WSJ’s report does explain that the lower weight allowance is offset by a concession to make the registration process fast and easy for consumers — it will be web and/or app driven, and will simply require a name and address for immediate use, contrasted by the current FAA commercial drone process that takes weeks. Your machine will need its registration number listed clearly on board.

The task force planning sessions are still underway, so it’s possible that these provisions change before being made official; the agency’s goal, however, is to get them implemented by end of this year.

The group itself is made of representatives from industry, drone manufacturers, and retailers, including GoPro, Amazon, BestBuy, and Walmart. The full list indicates the wide interest that these flying platforms have generated.

Nancy Egan – 3D Robotics
Richard Hanson – Academy of Model Aeronautics
George Novak – Aerospace Industries Association
Chuck Hogeman and Randy Kenagy – Air Line Pilots Association
Jim Coon – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Sean Cassidy – Amazon Prime Air
Ben Gielow–Amazon Retail
Justin Towles – American Association of Airport Executives
Brian Wynne – Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Parker Brugge – Best Buy
Douglas Johnson – Consumer Electronics Association
Brendan Schulman – DJI
Paul Feldman – General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Dave Vos – GoogleX (Co-Chair)
Tony Bates – GoPro
Matt Zuccaro – Helicopter Association International
Mike Fergus – International Association of Chiefs of Police
John Perry – Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors
Brandon Declet – Measure
Randall Burdett – National Association of State Aviation Officials
Sarah Wolf – National Business Aviation Association
Baptiste Tripard – Parrot
Tyler Collins – PrecisionHawk
Gregory McNeal – Small UAV Coalition
Thomas Head – Walmart

More to come.

14 thoughts on “Report: FAA’s Drone Task Force to Recommend 9 Ounce Registration Requirement

  1. What classifies as a “drone”? Does the RC, gas powered, 4 foot long bi-plane my neighbor flies count? What if he bolts my GoPro to it? What if he adds in an ArduPilot with out GPS? What if he adds GPS later? At what point does a Hobby RC airplane become a mean ol’ drone?

    1. Same question I’m asking. The Oxford defines drone as “any remote controlled pilotless aircraft or missile.” So the Feds are going to register EVERY flying device in America over 9 ounces — that’s going to be one Hell of a registry, another 1000 employees an $5 Billion at least.

      And if it doesn’t mean that then why doesn’t it mean that? What’s the difference, a manufacturer calls it a drone so its a drone but if they call it a model airplane then it isn’t a drone?

      Regulation for the sake of regulation

  2. Another pointless Federal regulation for the sake of regulations. Whar happens if you DON’T register your model airplane (that’s what we used to call these things in a saner age a few years ago) Is the death penalty sufficient for failing to register, because ultimately that the only tool government has to force your compliance. Will the FAA have SWAT teams to make dawn no-knock raids to seize the assets of miscreants?

    What is the point of making a regulation you cannot possibly enforce?

    1. You get a free pass if you are an illegal alien…American born get screwed again by our eunuch adeministration,

    2. The supposed penalty is something like $20,000. (I forget the exact amount, but it was ludicrous.)

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  3. Speak out! Send a message to your rep in congress.

    I just sent this message. Feel free to copy/modify & paste into a message to your rep.:

    Please do not allow the FAA to waste their time and our money on such a ‘drone’ registration program. First, a 9 oz ‘drone’ is not much more than a toy with very limited lifting capacity. If such a law were to be enacted it would also need to include remote controlled planes, helicopters, dirigibles and why not include r/c cars, boats, etc…

    I do not disagree that the FAA should take a very serious look at, and possibly regulate, the use of large autonomous and remote controlled aircraft of all configurations. However, it appears to me that the media has over reacted to the increased popularity of remote controlled aircraft and have frequently confused the potential of a hobbyists small quad-copter with that of true ‘drones’ such as the proposed Amazon/Google delivery ‘drones’ if not the capabilities of something like the Army’s Predator.

    I understand that new technology can be confusing and scary to the uninformed.

    I do, however, expect that government officials and agencies educate themselves and apply some common sense when proposing legislation.

    Please see these related articles:

    https://makezine.com/2015/11/06/report-faas-drone-task-force-to-recommend-9-ounce-registration-requirement/

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-task-force-to-recommend-drone-registration-sources-say-1446788167

  4. You know what we never used to hear about? Model airplanes flying near airports or getting shot down over people’s homes. This stuff seems to be happening all of the time now:

    http://bc.ctvnews.ca/this-can-be-catastrophic-drone-spotted-at-yvr-1.2606677

    It’s not a terrible thing to bring in regulations requiring people not to do dumb stuff with something that could bring down an airliner. 9 ounces might be on the small side, but once you’ve graduated beyond the “toy” level, maybe you should be registering your machine.

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    2. The FAA already has regulations that apply to model aircraft. How many tax dollars will go to fund this when we still have homeless and hungry people in this country? Drones are the “flavor of the week” and really a non issue in the greater scheme of things. They make the news because they are the latest fad. Why not spend that money on finding a cure for juvenile cancer or something else meaningful instead of wasting it.

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  6. Another ridiculous Federal regulation that will be impossible to enforce, considering you can make these things at home. Oh no, its a “ghost drone”… Make it yourself, no registration number to enter into the website. A website probably made by the same crappy coders that brought the “Obamacare” website to life. Not like html is some arcane dark magic or anything. What if you build a drone that weighs 8.5 ounces, then later put in a bigger LiPo, register or not? Here one for you, why not enforce current regulations on the dingbats who fly these things dangerously? I had no intention of building one but might have to now. Rant off.

  7. I agree that this is completely unenforceable. If my “drone” happened to fall somewhere that I couldn’t get to it, or got picked up by some authorities and wasn’t registered, how are they going to know it’s mine? Maybe you’re thinking fingerprints. What if I don’t touch it with my natural fingers, but only handle it while gloved? Then I can avoid the whole registration process and even go about doing things that I shouldn’t be. This is only going to cause bad blood between the FAA and ordinary citizens. 9 ounces is WAY too small. If I want to send a balloon up to the edge of space, I don’t have to register that. It can be as much as 4-6 POUNDS. (https://www.balloonchallenge.org/regulations) This is just more federal overreach. These people need to find hobbies other than pissing people off.

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Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

View more articles by Mike Senese