FAA to Impose Drone Registration Rules by End of 2015

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-10-19 Print this article Print
FAA Drone Rules

NEWS ANALYSIS: New rules would apply to current drone owners as well as any new drones and model aircraft sold in the United States.

This registration number is a public record, and you can search for the owner of any aircraft just by searching the FAA database for that number.

If you search for the number N493UA, for example, you'll find an Airbus A320 owned by United Airlines. However, all aircraft, including those owned by private individuals as well as civil aircraft owned by the government, display those registration numbers. Military aircraft also display identification numbers, usually called tail numbers.

While it would be impossible to display registration numbers in the sizes required for manned aircraft, drones and model aircraft do have sufficient space on their exterior surfaces to display visible numbers.

According to Foxx, the DOT is still deciding whether to make the contents of the unmanned aircraft database publically available. However, a public database seems likely, if only because other government registration and license identification data is already public. In addition to the aircraft database, the Federal Communication Commission requires radio station licensees to make their license numbers and registration information public, for example.

One reason that the registration requirement can be put into place so quickly is that the Department of Transportation already has the charter in place to regulate aircraft backed by federal law as well as a law-enforcement structure in place. 

This means that once the requirement for the registration of drones and model airplanes is in place, the FAA can start levying fines for failing to register or for irresponsible operation.

But, of course, placing a registration requirement on drone operators and enforcing compliance with that requirement are two different things. Considering the lack of responsibility shown by drone operators that fly near airports or otherwise endanger the public, it's hard to believe that they will go out of their way to register their drones.

While the government has the ability to go after unregistered drones, there are already a million of those devices flying in the U.S. Catching them all will take some time.

With the new registration requirement, federal regulators have the ability to track down owners of drones that are registered. Equally important they now have the legal structure in place to go after drones that aren't registered, and they have a way to go after people who violate federal laws by operating drones illegally.

This means, among other things, that there is a new requirement for anyone who hires a drone operator to perform aerial photo missions. You will have to obtain the drone operator's registration information so you can sort out those who are operating legally versus those who aren't.



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