With thousands of drones expected to be unwrapped this Christmas, airspace regulators have announced they will require all owners of flying craft in the US to register drones weighing between 250g and 22kg.
The move from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) comes to help curb the imminent nightmare it faces in the skies come Christmas Day with the item high on wish lists, following the many drone incidents and accidents to occur in the past year.
The FAA will require all owners of drones or unmanned aircraft system that meet the weight criteria to be registered by 19 February 2016 or they could face a civil fine of up to $27,500 (£18,100) or a criminal fine up to $250,000 (£165,000) and potentially three years in jail. If you're solely using your drone indoors you do not need to register your aircraft – it's just for use outdoors.
The registration date will begin on 21 December and applies to all hobbyists and enthusiasts – but not commercial drone pilots – costing $5 (£3.30) per application. It will last for three years. If you own multiple unmanned aircraft this fee will cover them all. As a sign of goodwill to encourage owners to register this registration fee will be waived for any registry before 20 January.
Drone registration deadline
If you bought your drone before 21 December, you have until the February deadline to register, however if you acquire your drone on, or after, the 21 December owners cannot legally fly their drone until they register. All owners need to provide is a name, home address and email address, which will generate a certificate of registration and unique ID number to be placed on the drone.
No doubt many people will be asking plenty of questions about this ruling so the FAA has provided an FAQ section on its website answering things from what constitutes a drone to what happens if you lend someone your drone. It covers most bases so take a look if you're unsure.
As for UK drone owners there isn't yet a process for registering a drone, however as incidents increase we would not be surprised if a similar regulation is brought into effect very soon. While there are no established operating guidelines there are legal rules that the Civil Aviation Authority has announced. They include rules such as drones must be operated within the operator's lines of sight and not fly over or within 150m of congested areas or where over 1000 people are congregated. For further UK regulations of owning a drone, they can be found on the CAA website.