Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, center, accompanied industry stakeholder representatives, speaks at a news conference at the Department of Transportation in Washington, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, where he announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik/Francois Mori)
Have a drone? You better get it registered
December 18, 2015
New rules are coming for drones. A lot of kids might be getting them as gifts soon.
The federal government will require that the aircraft be registered. This is spurred by numerous reports of drones flying near jets and airports. Registration will make it easier to identify owners. And it should make it easier to educate amateur aviators. That includes children.
The move was announced by the Federal Aviation Administration. It comes at a time when the agency is getting more than 100 reports per month. The reports are about drones flying near manned aircraft. The FAA prohibits drones and model airplanes from flying higher than 400 feet. They also cannot fly within 5 miles of an airport.
Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists. The FAA estimates that 1.6 million small, unmanned aircraft will be sold in 2015. Half will be bought during the last three months of the year.
The drones must be marked with the owner's unique registration number. The FAA said that would let authorities track down owners if they violate the rules. But registration also gives the agency a vehicle to educate owners. And it comes as thousands get drones as presents for Christmas and other holidays.
The requirement covers aircraft weighing from more than a half pound up to 55 pounds. It also includes any payload such as a camera. Drone owners who are 13 and older will have to register on an FAA website. It will be available Dec. 21. The FAA expects parents to register for younger children.
Registration will cost $5. It's good for three years. Then it must be renewed. The fee will be waived for the first 30 days. That is until Jan. 20. Owners will have to mark aircraft with an identification number. Recreational fliers can register as many aircraft as they want. They can use the same registration number for each.
Most people who fly drones and model aircraft have little aviation experience. But they become pilots as soon as they start to fly. This is according to Deputy FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker. "They have the responsibility to fly safely. And there are rules and regulations that apply to them," he said.
Those who got drones before Dec. 21 must register by Feb. 19. People who buy them later also must register. They need to do it before their first outdoor flight.
Owners will have to provide their name, home address and email. Their identity will be verified and payments made by credit card, the agency said.
The FAA said it used some of the suggestions from a task force. That group was appointed by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The move disappointed a large group representing model airplane users.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics is based in Muncie, Indiana. It said registration is an "unnecessary burden for our more than 185,000 members." The organization pointed out that most have been operating safely for decades.
The group maintains that in 2012 Congress prohibited the FAA from new rules for recreational model aircraft users who are part of a community-based organization.
Whitaker agreed that the law prohibits new rules. But the FAA has the authority to register the aircraft, he said.
Most model airplanes and even some flying toys weigh more than a half-pound. So they may need to be registered, the academy said.
The requirement won support from others. The support included the Air Line Pilots Association. They said it is a tool to help make sure drone owners share the skies safely with airplanes. The association would like to see registration required when unmanned aircraft are sold.
Government and industry officials have expressed concern that drones, like birds, could be sucked into an aircraft engine. The drones could smash a cockpit windshield or damage a critical aircraft surface area, the officials say. And it could cause a crash, they said.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How will registration improve safety?
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