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IT & Systems Management

The FAA's drone registry is live, and it's ridiculously easy

The FAA's new drone registration system went live on Monday, and it's ridiculously easy to use. Shortly after it went live at 3pm EST, I signed up and the whole process only took a few minutes.

The drone registration requirement was announced by the Federal Aviation Administration last week and mandates anyone flying a drone that weighs over 250 grams (0.55 pounds) register through the new website. (Details of drones that are and are not covered are included in a handy PDF file)

It comes as thousands of new drones take flight in U.S. skies everyday and concerns rise that some pilots are not flying their craft safely.

Users are first asked to create an account on the system using their email address. A simple verification process follows where a link is sent via email to the address provided.

Martyn Williams

Setting up an account

That brings up the actual registration page, which asks for a name and address. There's a field for a phone number, but that's optional.

Once completed, registrants are asked to acknowledge the basics of safe drone flying: flight below 400 feets, within visual line of sight, not over people or stadiums or sporting events, with knowledge of airspace rules, not close to emergency response efforts, not near aircraft and airports and not while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Martyn Williams

Safety acknowledgements are an important part of the system

When it announced the registration scheme, the FAA said one of the main objectives is to drum into pilots that they need to be responsible users of the airspace system, and safety is a top priority, so these acknowledgements are important.

Next up, registrants are asked to pay $5. This is a bit of a strange step since registrations are free for the first 30 days of the database. The FAA says it will refund any payments made, so presumably this is a necessary because federal law demands a payment be made for registration. This was the most "government" part of the entire process.

Martyn Williams

You still have to pay, even though it's initially free

Something the payment process highlighted is that the registration is good for three years. That wasn't mentioned last week when the registration scheme was first announced.

And finally, registrants are given their drone registry number and instructions for marking their drone. Many consumer drones don't have a large amount of space on the base or sides, so it's questionable whether such a marking would ever be clearly visible from the ground. But it would enable the owner of a crashed drone to be identified.

Martyn Williams

Upon completiton, the registrant is given their number and shown how to mark their drone.

Users are also emailed a copy of their drone registration ID. Under the FAA's regulations, a printed or digital copy is required to be carried at all times while flying a drone.

What wasn't asked for? Any details of the drone itself. The FAA isn't asking pilots to identify the drones they are flying, perhaps because it's more concerned with safe piloting that the regulatory aspects of the actual craft in the air, especially as it doesn't carry people.

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