Latest FAA Drone Rules – Registration Number Markings

Latest FAA Drone Rules – Registration Number Markings

February 19, 2019 20 By Scott Hinkle
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It appears that there are some changes being made to the latest FAA drone rules. Registration number markings will soon need to be displayed on the outside of all aircraft. Although I think this is a good thing, there are many details missing that leave me wondering how effective this rule change will really be.

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So What Are The Changes And When Do These Latest FAA Drone Rules Go Into Effect?

The big “change” is simply that registration number markings will need to be on the outside of the aircraft. The rule becomes effective on Saturday, February 25th, 2019. Make sure to have your aircraft marked on the outside by this date (or by the time you go to fly on or after this date) to be compliant. You can see the posting of the new rule here in the Federal Register.

GoodWhy Is This Good?

Having the markings on the outside can help in a multitude of ways:

  • Easier on Law Enforcement – Law enforcement can identify the aircraft (and it’s owner) without having to chase it down or disable it (assuming the information displayed on the exterior is valid). This can lessen frustrations on both ends in certain situations. As an extension to this, it alleviates concerns over having to open a compartment to obtain the registration number. This is the real reason this rule change is being made. There are concerns that a concealed explosive device might pose a risk to first responders upon opening a compartment to find a drone’s registration number. By having it on the exterior, this risk is mitigated.
  • Basic Pilot Knowledge – At first glance, it shows the pilot is obeying at least some regulations vs someone who isn’t and may not even know the rules or be following best practices. This can help to alleviate concerns as to the pilot’s knowledge and awareness.
  • Proper Use Identification – It can help in identifying if the drone pilot (or owner) is a hobbyist or FAA part 107 licensed based on the registration number. This can be useful in determining if the operation the drone is engaged in is legal or not (i.e. if being used for commercial purposes vs just getting that cool shot for your video blog). It also can speak to the pilot’s training and knowledge (i.e. if the drone is registered commercially, the pilot is expected to have passed their FAA part 107 certificate test, etc.).

BadWhy Is This Bad?

There are a few reasons this isn’t necessarily a good thing:

  • Privacy – Say a nervous neighbor spots your aircraft “near” their home. Now they have your number as it’s visible to anyone. They can look it up and pull your information right from the registration database. Name and address in hand, let the harassment begin.
  • False sense of security – Anyone can just toss a number on their aircraft and, I’m willing to bet, those that are planning to use it for nefarious purposes will do just that to appear to be benign. You can’t just look up, see the number and say, all clear. The appearance of following the rules can lessen one’s alertness level.
  • No real thought put into this new rule – See below.

Thought - Latest FAA Drone RulesSeriously, There Wasn’t Much Thought Put Into This Rule Change Was There?

No. You’d think there’s be some guidelines regarding the display of registration numbers but the only thing called out is that you have to put it on the exterior of the aircraft, that’s it… I don’t know about you, but it would make sense to specify the following:

  • Location – There’s nothing that says where on the aircraft to display the markings. You could put it on top (which won’t help anyone unless they are flying above your drone, to the side, underneath, anywhere really. Better yet, how about putting it on a prop. No one will be able to read it while in flight.
  • Size – There are no size requirements so you can make it as small as you’d like and you’d be compliant. Can you read something in a small font size from 20 feet away? How about 200?
  • Color – I guess, if you want to keep the cool look of your drone, you can make the markings the same color as the drone itself. It will just blend in and would only be discernible if you can see the slightly raised sticker (assuming you didn’t just write it on there with a pen).
  • Legibility – One of the examples in their new info graphic shows a hand-written label. Who’s to say my doctor-like (no I’m not a doctor, I just type of r a living and my handwriting has suffered for it) handwriting is not good enough. I can’t even read it half of the time.

For those of you who have already labeled your drone under the previous rule or have yet to label it, the FAA has updated their info graphic here. As you can see, it’s lacking all the points listed above.

If these things aren’t specified there’s going to be a lot of people out there trying to get away with whatever they can or, worse yet, having the law interpreted in a way where they find themselves in a lot of trouble. It just makes sense to provide specifics. That way, you know you’re really in compliance, others know what exactly to look for and where and things can just run smoothly.

Frankly, I recommend using labels such as these:

Not only do they look great, but they provide the necessary information in a clear and legible manner.


I believe the rule is a good one but do have concerns as mentioned above. Until the rule is further defined to specify location, color (or at least contrast to background) and size, I just don’t see it making much of a difference.

Although this rule does go into effect on the 25th of February, 2019, it is considered an interim final rule which means public comments are invited. If you wish to chime in on this rule and provide useful comments for consideration, please visit the official rule announcement here and then click on the Comment Now! button to provide your input.

What are your thoughts on the latest FAA drone rules and the proposed registration number markings change? I’d love to hear your opinion on the above as well as on any points I may have missed. Please comment below and let me know.

Thank you,

Scott Hinkle

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