How to Register a Drone with the FAA – An Important 1st StepJune 3, 2019 2 By Scott Hinkle
To address the increasing number of aircraft flying in the United States airspace, the FAA now requires drone registration, whatever your reason for getting one, to be compliant with the current laws. It’s no longer an issue of if you need to register, you simply must. This post will tell you How to Register a Drone with the FAA.
Drones are popping up everywhere. Kids are getting them as gifts, adults are picking them up for toys themselves and many are trying to figure out what they can do to make money with these flying contraptions. Why not? The drone industry is seeing huge bumps in their sales numbers lately as newer models are released with advanced features and to meet varying needs.
Photographers, farmers, construction companies, emergency services, Realtors and so on, all have uses for these new tools. You might think, a drone is like any other RC item out there, you just buy it and fly it but that’s not really true. Management, safety and accountability are all factors to consider as the skies start to fill up.
Here’s what you need to do to register your drone with the FAA…
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Why Do You Need to Register Your Drone with the FAA?
First and foremost, it’s the law. If you live in the US and your drone weighs over .55 lbs., you have to register it. It’s as simple as that.
Additionally, it helps to solidify accountability. With your drone associated with your name, should it be involved in an incident, the authorities know who to come talk to (assuming the drone, or parts thereof, are recovered or visual identification has been made and reported, etc.).
Registering can also help with the recovery of lost or stolen aircraft. Should you drone end up stuck in a tree, recovered from a suspected thief, etc., the registration can help authorities get into contact with you and eventually get your aircraft returned.
There are probably other reasons to register, but those are the three I can think of off the top of my head, number one being the most important reason.
How to Register a Drone with the FAA
Registering your drone is actually quite easy. There are two ways to do it yourself but, before we get to the actual registration part, you need to determine what kind of flier you are. In the eyes of the FAA there are two types of drone pilots, hobbyists (or modelers), those flying for fun, and commercial, those flying for any reason outside of hobbyist use (i.e. for profit).
The reason determining this is important now is because it directly affects how you will register. If you are planning to fly strictly for pleasure then you actually register yourself as a hobbyist pilot and use your registration numbers on your aircraft. Now, if you plan to use the drone(s) for any other reason; search and rescue, taking photos and videos for sale, agriculture, inspections (home, power line, etc.) and so on; then you need to register as a commercial pilot, obtain your FAA Part 107 certification and register your drone with it’s own, individual, registration number.
I actually use my drone for both purposes so I have registered myself as a hobbyist pilot and my drone for commercial use, placing both registration numbers on the aircraft.
The quickest and easiest way to register is to simply do it online. If your aircraft weighs over 55 lbs., you’ll need to use the By Mail option. To register online you need to visit the FAA’s registration page and choose the correct option (commercial or hobbyist) to get started. Once you select the appropriate option, you’ll need to create an account to manage your registration.
The account registration will vary, depending on the option you select (recreational or part 107). Another thing to note is, you’ll have to pay $5 to register as a recreational pilot and/or $5 per aircraft registered under part 107.
If you’re only planning to be a recreational pilot, or you’re wanting to be recreational now and might go commercial later, then you’re done. You’ve created your account, paid your fee and obtained your registration number. Simply label your drone according to the FAA guidelines and hit the skies, following the appropriate rules.
As a part 107 pilot, you’ll need to register your aircraft under the Manage sUAS Inventory option. Once there you can add a UAS, providing information including:
- UAS Type
- Serial Number
Once you’ve entered the appropriate information, click on Add UAS to save the aircraft and obtain the registration number. Place that number on your aircraft, following the guidelines linked to above, and you’re good to go.
The second option is to register by mail (paper registration). This is a bit more complicated and may be required if you meet certain criteria such as; the aircraft is over 55 lbs., aircraft owned by a trustee under a trust agreement, if the own uses a voting trust to meet U.S. Citizenship requirements, etc.
This type of registration is a bit outside the scope of this post. Please visit this page for more detailed information on registering via mail.
Can You Use a Service?
Absolutely, but why? Online registration is quick, painless and just plain convenient. Why would you want to pay someone else to do it for you? When the registration process was first introduced, several sites popped up offering to register your aircraft for you. Many times, they were legit but cost substantially more than the $5 fee charged by the FAA.
Sometimes you’d get something extra, like your registration number on a professional looking sticker, or your pilot ID card nicely laminated, etc. These are things you can actually get on Amazon here for a relatively low cost.
Other times, people would take your money and wouldn’t process the registration or, worse yet, provide you with faked information, leaving you open to legal action when you thought you were on the up-and-up.
In short, take the few minutes to process it yourself, save yourself some money and avoid any chance that you’re being defrauded.
What if you Don’t Register?
Don’t fly. Basically, if you do, you’re doing so illegally. There’s really not a reason to skip the registration unless you’re planning to break the law or use the aircraft in some nefarious manner and, if that’s your plan, this isn’t the site for you.
Some people will say “I don’t like to be tracked. I’m not going to register.”. That’s your prerogative. It’s also your choice, meaning, if you don’t want to register, you’re giving up the right to fly your drone in the eyes of the law. It’s just like driving a car, if you don’t want to get the license, you can’t drive.
What if You’re not a U.S. Citizen but Plan to Visit With Your Drone?
Don’t worry, you can still fly if you follow the guidelines found on the Information for International UAS Operators in the United States page. Sufficed to say, if you’re looking to fly recreationally, it’s basically the same as registering here as a recreational pilot and following the rules. If you’re looking to fly commercially, there’s a bit more to it, including the need to obtain economic authority.
Please visit the page linked above for more information.
There you go, How to Register a Drone with the FAA. It’s really quite simple, quick to complete and the best way to stay legal and up to date. If you have any questions you can start at the FAA’s UAS Getting Started page. From there you’ll find links to all sorts of information to answer any question you might have.
Are you planning to register your drone, or yourself, yourself or will you use a service to do it for you? Again, by the time you provide the information to the service, you could have just entered it in yourself. Have you registered already? Are you not planning to register? What do you think of the registration requirement? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Just let me know by commenting below.
But what about if I am renting a drone from someone or from a company, do I need to borrow their license or permit to fly? We plan to visit the United States for a religious ceremony involving our church and there’s a debate in our group of whether to rent a drone for picture taking or buy one, and since buying one would involved so many complicate processes including registration, the consensus is to just rent a drone.
Thanks for asking a great question, one I didn’t really cover here.
So the FAA is most concerned with the pilot in command. Basically, think of it as a who to blame if something should happen. In such cases, I recommend you ask the rental company how they handle FAA requirements.
Some may need you to register yourself and place your registration number on the aircraft. Since it’s a rental, you’ll need to use a temporary labeling solution, so as not to permanently mark the device.
Others may have it registered and numbered already and will keep track of who has the drone during certain periods to address “ownership” at a particular time.
Again, thanks for such a great question. It was not something I had considered when I wrote this article,