Tuesday 26 January 2016
Compulsory registration of civilian drones in the US was introduced on 21 December covering all manner of remote control flying systems from toys to aerial cameras. Any small unmanned aircraft weighing between 250g and 25kg must be registered before being flown outdoors, and pilots must be aged 13 or older.
FAA administrator Michael Huerta said: “The registration numbers we’re seeing so far are very encouraging. We’re working hard to build on this early momentum and ensure everyone understands the registration requirement.”
Owners who registered before 21 January had their $5 fee waived, while the online registration system is only open to recreational users. Drones must be registered every three years, and clearly marked with their registration number. Anyone who operated a drone before 21 December must register before 19 February to continue legally flying it.
High profile incidents involving drones have highlighted the need for safety and accountability. In 2013 one was flown towards German chancellor Angela Merkel, and in May last year there were attempts to fly over the White House, while in December one narrowly missed downhill skiing champion Marcel Hirscher on the slope in Italy.
Supplying the FAA with the name, address and email address of the owner is part of the registration process, which is intended to help prevent abuse and nuisance drones. Currently when a drone is captured it is difficult to trace back to an owner. The FAA hopes that registration will help.
US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said: “The National Airspace System is a great resource and all users of it, including [unmanned aerial system] users, are responsible for keeping it safe.”
Around 1m drones were expected to be sold in the US by the end of 2015, which means only about one-third of those newly acquired drones have been registered.
The current legislation in the UK is different. It is illegal to fly a drone within 50m of a building or a person and 150m of a built-up area. In addition, the maximum flight height is 400m and the drone has to remain in line of sight and within 500m of the pilot. But civil drones do not currently need to be registered.
Commercial drone pilots must complete a training course and apply for a permitfrom the Civil Aviation Authority to fly the drone.