New FAA Regulations on Registering Your Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

We see full scale aircraft aviators become radio control pilots all the time.  We hear from our military pilots how much they love flying the small, scale version of what they flew — for real.   Today, for the first time we can see and hear about the RC hobbyist — who has never sat in a cockpit to gently pull back the stick and edge an airplane off the runway — can now be legitimately called an “Aviator”.

Yesterday, December 14th, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx issued a statement that has fundamentally merged the space between small scale, micro aircraft and full scale aviation,  “Make no mistake,” Foxx said, “unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility.”

This shift in perspective set the tone for the FAA’s Small UAS Regulation Rule, effectively classifying hobbyists as “pilots” of their aircraft.  What does this mean for everyday RC enthusiasts?

Not much.  A vast majority of Hobby Express customers are already very safety concious and most are members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) where the hobby industry set safety standards and local RC air fields get certified.  The AMA provides us flight accident insurance too!   In fact, for many years, all RC aircraft over 55 lbs and any functioning scale jet models have been subject to extensive regulation and licensing, so that element of the regulation nothing new for serious hobbyists.

Rest assured, the FAA did not set unreasonably high standards that would regulate regular citizens out of the joy of small craft, remote control flight.

The FAA clearly understands the excitement for unmanned aircraft in this country (and the world) with technology advancing so fast and given the flight experience is now so easy, there really is a wave of enthusiasm.   With markets expanding so fast, it did not take long for a few really stupid people to fly their aircraft in an unsafe and dangerous way, which lead to registration as a logical, necessary step to address that risk.

“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.” Said Foxx in his statement.  Registration of the pilot and marking of the aircraft will now be a statutory requirement for all aircraft weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms).

The process of registration itself will not be difficult, nor will it be expensive (just a $5 fee for a valid 3 year registration).  The FAA is waiving this fee for the first 30 days (from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan 20, 2016). Register within this period and you will be refunded payment for your first 3 year registration. The FAA says “The credit card transaction helps authenticate the user. You will see a credit for the $5 shortly after the charge appears.” Our FAA is required by law to charge a fee for registration and the nominal fee will go towards the cost of developing, implementing and maintaining a convenient online registration system.

Visit the simple online registration page at  The registration process is not live prior to December 21st except for the referenced paper process which will remain available.

We checked in with Hobby Express CEO Mark A. Cleveland who has had extensive experience in the hobby industry for insight on how this might affect long-time hobbyists and friends of the business, “It will not bother Hobbyist at all, we’ve just been waiting to see what the FAA would require,” Cleveland said. “A long delay and discussion about regulation caused confusion, so we are excited about the clarity this FAA announcement represents.  It’s a basic registration of the pilot for safety purposes.”

Brief Summary of Regulation

The online registration requirement after December, 21 applies to any craft ever flown outdoors in US airspace as a tethered or untethered craft weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) at takeoff. The craft must be visibly, viewable without the use of tools, marked with the unique registration number of a registered person who is 13 years old or older and who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

A paper registration process is in operation now, serving non-citizens and public, private, or corporate entities, as well as individuals who wishes not to use the online process.  The Registration Task Force of industry experts and interested associations, including the AMA, submitted recommendations that also contain a statement providing for the FAA to take “…all possible steps to shield the information of privately owned aircraft from unauthorized disclosure, including issuing an advance statement that the information collected will be considered to be exempt from disclosure under the FOIA.”  This means your registration is private or (read with a cynical smile) at least as confidential as our government is capable of managing.

The bottom line, registration serves the mandate that all UAS must be traceable in the event of incident.  “A registration certificate that contains the unique FAA registration number, the issue and expiration dates, and the name of the certificate holder will be sent to your email address immediately.”  According to the FAQ located at certificates must be presentable in printed or electronic form any time you fly your UAS in case you are asked to produce proof of registration.

Registration of a pilot makes it possible to give that pilot a number they would inscribe on all their aircraft, which would help trace any crashed or lost aircraft back to their registered owner.  This will benefit ethical aircraft owners and commercial operators while serving to protect the safety and privacy of the public.

The FAA is serious about the rules as it is clearly provided that the penalty for failing to register an aircraft exposes a pilot to regulatory and criminal sanctions. These include possible civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties that include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.

“Well, it’s finally the devil we know instead of the devil we don’t,” said Mark A Cleveland, CEO of Hobby Express.  “Millions of smiles at Christmas will still be delivered by drone.”

See the official FAA press release of  HERE


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