Today, the FAA announced their long-awaited requirements for drone registration, as well as an online registration portal. These rules are intended to help the agency combat potentially unsafe UAV operations as drone sales grow.

What are these rules, and what do they mean for commercial operators?

The Rules

The FAA plans to issue their official rule tomorrow. However the agency has already published a UAS Registration Q&A describing the registration rules and system system. Here are the highlights:

  • Only recreational or hobby users can register their UAVs or drones using the new process. The process will not be available for commercial drone operators.
  • The registration system will be available on on December 21, 2015.
  • Owners of multiple drones can apply the same registration number to all of their UAVs.
  • Users who purchased a UAV before December 21st must register by February 16, 2015.
  • Users who purchase a drone after December 21st must register before flying.
  • Drones weighing less than 55 pounds and more than 0.55 pounds on takeoff must be registered.
  • Drones weighing under 0.55 pounds (including toy drones) do not need to be registered.
  • The FAA has set an age minimum of 13 years old for those registering a drone.
  • Registrations will cost $5 and must be renewed every three years.

What does this mean for commercial users?

Though the FAA’s rules are based on recommendations given by a task force comprising representatives from major commercial drone companies like PrecisionHawk, the FAA’s announcement is light on information about commercial UAV registration.

In conversation with UAV Expo, Drone Analyst Colin Snow verified that these new rules will have very little effect on commercial operators or commercial registration.

“The only confusion it creates,” he explains, “is when you’ve bought a drone for home use and decided to use it later for commercial purposes.”

As for the commercial registration process itself, Snow said that nothing is changing just yet. Commercial users will still be required to go through the same registration process they have been using.

However, Snow said that these new regulations hint that the FAA might be planning to change the commercial registration process in the future. He speculated that these changes may include an online portal much like the one being launched for non-commercial users. He also speculated that the commercial registration system could avoid the N-numbers currently used for registering manned aircraft, since that system cannot generate enough registration numbers to accommodate the growing number of drones.

UAV Expo will continue reporting on the FAA’s rules for registration as more information becomes available.