Today the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced new licensing requirements for small and medium remote-control or autonomous (drone) aircraft. We know a number of homesteaders who are using drone technology to keep an eye on their property or shoot pictures of their land – virtually all fliers bigger than a toy will require registration on the FAA website.
The FAA has been monitoring the state-of-the-art of unmanned aircraft technology and incidents involving drones, including a number of close calls with commercial aircraft and interference with firefighting efforts in California. The increasing popularity of such aircraft has motivated the FAA to require operators of any drone aircraft weighing more than half a pound (including payload) to register with the FAA.
Small toys are exempt – such as the popular Star Wars tie-in remote control Millennium Falcon and Air Hogs Helix. But drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) will require the aviator to obtain a registration number and display it on their aircraft.
Registration requires no approval and is active for three years for as many drones as you choose to own. While there is a five dollar fee associated with registration (which captures the user’s name, home address and e-mail), the FAA is waiving this fee until January 20, 2016. Note that the weight restriction includes payload, so the operator of virtually any drone aircraft with a camera must be registered – until technology advances and cameras shrink even further.
This sort of restriction is really no different than a fishing license – a nominal fee to encourage folks to be on their honor (and a way to penalize those who aren’t interested in “playing by the rules” if they actually cause an incident). Notably, the FAA hasn’t lifted the restrictions on interfering with drones, so keep that anti-drone ammunition packed safely away. Another rule that remains unchanged is the requirement to notify the control tower if you plan to fly within five miles of an airfield.