Latest FAA Drone Rules – Registration Number MarkingsFebruary 19, 2019 20 By Scott Hinkle
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.
If you’re thinking about getting your FAA part 107 certificate, check out my post: Get the FAA Drone License – Make Money Legally With Your Mavic.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE OUR AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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.
Why 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.).
Why 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.
Seriously, 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.
This has been a long time coming! I’ve always thought aircrafts would one day have registration number marking and in less than a week, it’ll start getting enforced. There are a lot to be positive about as regards the new development because it helps in easy identification of aircrafts for search and rescue operations as well as other purposes.
I agree, it’s a good thing. I just question the rush to implement with no specifics or guidelines for consistency.
Thanks for commenting.
It is interesting to read an article like this and forgive me if I sound naive about this a little, I particularly like the Drone registration rule as it can help track issues such as the ones that caused airports to be down in the UK a few months ago. Do you think Drone registration can help curb issues like those? Maybe that’s a positive angle to it.
Yes and no. I think the whole airport incursion issue would be better served by educating drone owners and pilots and imposing stiffer penalties for those that break the rules around sensitive installations such as airports. Sadly, the actions of a few cause more restrictions and even animosity from the non-flying public for the many, law abiding, pilots out there.
As for those that do fly in these areas intentionally, I suspect they wouldn’t adhere to the marking rules anyway.
Thank you for commenting.
“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.”That sentence, I copied it from your post.. Is it That the law is already in motion or it is going to be set on that day?..
It becomes an enforceable law on the 25th. That said, it’s an interim final rule. That means it’s still open to comments and may be modified at a later date. Until that time, however, it will still be the law.
Lovely post, I love the simplicity at which you write, short, precise and straight to point. I was just searching for some little informations about drone and I landed here. This article will be very helpful and will spice up a research I’ve being writing for days now. I’m bookmarking this page right away. Thanks
I try to write as if I’m talking to a friend about these issues. I’m glad you found my post of interest.
Hi Scott – this is great information about the regulation of needing to have the registration number displayed on the outside of the drone. Although it doesn’t seem like this rule was thought out to carefully. You brought up two great negative points about the privacy issue and the false sense of security. I’ll have to talk to my friend that has a drone and see if they are aware of this change, and see what their opinion is on it.
Thanks for commenting! Would you mind letting me know what your friend thinks? I love to hear what other drone owners/pilots have to say.
I’m going to assume you don’t have a drone yourself. What are your thoughts on drones, privacy and public safety in general? I’m hoping to write articles for non-pilots too and it would help to get in the same frame of mind, if you will, as I try to speak to all points of view.
While I can understand some people’s opposition to the registration number markings and it’s downsides, I think it has become increasingly necessary to place some form of identification on them because as usual with almost every invention, those unscrupulous elements who are usually looking for loopholes in gadgets that would enable them carry out their nefracious activities have used these drone to cause havoc and I am sure that there are so many of them discovering or researching on ways to use these drone to the disadvantage of the general populace.
i just wish the government would not rush to provide a temporary solution to a permanent issue.
You nailed it. I’m not opposed to new rules or modifying current ones. I’m against the rush to put them in place without the slightest effort being made to establish standards or even evaluate effectiveness.
Sadly, I think drones are a hot point that politicians see as an easy way to look like they’re making a difference or protecting the public without really understanding the issues.
Thanks for chiming in.
I enjoyed reading your post. I had heard that there were changes coming. Now, I don’t know if you are in the States or Canada but I think changes are happening in both countries.
I also think I heard that these new rules apply to drones of a certain weight and up. Is this correct? I have a drone that weighs less than a pound so I think I would be exempt.
As far as the registration rule goes, I think it’s a good idea as well. It may deter some radical flyers from doing stuff that’s dangerous. I mean, some of those high tech drones are pretty heavy and even the smaller ones can do some serious damage if they run into a human.
I’m also in agreement with being more specific about the issues you mentioned.
I can’t wait for the better weather to come in the spring so I can get out and fly again.
All the best,
I’m in the US. I don’t know if you saw another recent post of mine titled: FAA Drone Rules – Will We Be Able to Fly at Night and Over People?. I’m actually looking forward to those changes.
As for the weight, in the US You should register your aircraft if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs. (250 grams) and less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
Hopefully, many of the concerns I have with this latest rule change will be addressed once the comment period has elapsed.
Thank you and feel free to share any shots and footage when you do get back in the air!
It is a very interesting article concerning labeling your drone under FAA rules, in which I have very little knowledge about. It is fine to label your drone with the appropriate label if you had a standard FAA label to label it with. But by your article, FAA has no standards in which to label your drone. There is no size for a label nor is there a standard on how the label should be printed.
I believe this would be a good policy for people who have and fly drones but it is misleading and provides a lot of confusion. As you say, there should be a standard in labeling drones. What if the drone was too small to label it the standard way? This would be another confusing point. And what if the material made to make the drone was of a color that perhaps the label would blend in and you could not see it?
It is a good idea to label the drone for identity purposes. If someone losses their drone it would be a way to help them find it if it was lost. And I believe it would be good to identify the drone for security purposes as for police or emergency staff so that it can be identified as not being associated with terrorist or bombers.
My cousin across the street has many drones which he flies as a hobby. We live on a family farm with hundreds of open acres and he flies them and takes videos. I haven’t talked to him about these new rules, but it would be a great way of identifying his drones in case he loses one and someone finds it.
I agree with you that this new FAA regulation is too confusing and leaves too many unanswered questions.
I agree with you. That said, when it comes to the FAA and full-sized aircraft, there’s all sorts of standards imposed. I don’t see why that level of detail can’t be applied to certain aspects of drone regulations.
They could define certain lettering sizes maybe based on drone measurements, etc. Even mandating that the lettering must be on 2 sides or visible from above and below could be useful. Another clarification could state a contrast requirement such as using white lettering on a dark bodied drone or black on a light colored one.
These are just some thoughts that popped into my head. I’d love to hear what your cousin thinks.
Thank you for this wonderful and educating post. This change in rules is quite a welcome development because it will save drones owner time and money, The FAA rule wanting to all the air craft to have their number out the air craft will be easier to identify. In as much as weak the rule may be, It is definitely going to be effective in my own opinion.
I suspect details will be hashed out as these concerns are brought to the FAA’s attention. Until then, I’ll do what I can to comply with the intention of the new rule and not just the letter of the law.
I thought this was something that was already in place. Being able to identify ownership of the object flying around would mitigate many issues law enforcement faces from those looking to exploit holes in the law.
Will this apply to model planes also? Or just those classified as drones (and frankly what’s the difference)?
Having registration number markings on your drone is already mandated, yes, but until now, you’ve been allowed to conceal it inside the drone as long as it was easily accessible (such as in a battery compartment). Now it’s to be displayed on the exterior of the aircraft itself.
As far as I know this only applies to drone aircraft. Drones are different in many aspects but one of the most significant is in the way they can maneuver and fly. Model planes can’t maneuver in the same way, etc.