FAA Announces Mandatory Drone Registration – Including Hobbyists

Today the FAA announced “a web-based aircraft registration process for the registration of small unmanned aircraft, including small unmanned aircraft operated as model aircraft, to facilitate compliance with the statutory requirement that all aircraft register prior to operation.”

The procedural status of this rule is an “interim rule” which means you can still make official comments to oppose or support this measure (see below).

We previously stated our belief that imposing this rule on hobbyists is likely to be challenged as illegal under the 2012 FMRA.  A better idea may have been to require registration only to those drones and rc aircraft with autopilot functionality and/or First-Person-View (FPV) ability.

After today, the question is: Do you feel regulated? The Administrator indicated that enforcement of this registration requirement may be local law enforcement.

Section 336 of the FMRA is the “stone in my shoe.” While I listen to the FAA’s explanation of why they have the authority to force model aircraft registration I keep coming back to Section 336 which says:

.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law
relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into
Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this
subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model
aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft


Hobbyists are being compelled under force of law to register with large monetary and possible criminal penalties for failure to register.  If the requirement for registering model aircraft has been “required” for decades and thus not part of the prohibition of regulating model aircraft  under Section 336, why wasn’t it done before? This feels like intellectual gymnastics.   If the need to register is a public safety reason, FAA ought to ask Congress for the authority to impose registration on model aircraft.

The FAA states “If you own a drone, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) registry. A federal law effective December 21, 2016 requires unmanned aircraft registration, and you are subject to civil and criminal penalties if you do not register.”

“Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.”

The FAA’s FAQ can be found here.


Send comments identified by docket number FAA-2015-7396 using any of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT),1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC20590-0001.
Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.

The full interim rule may be viewed here.

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