The FAA forces owners of UAS and drones to register in the USA

The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States of America makes mandatory the registration of drones and UAS. Both are subjected to the same legislation. The FAA defines precisely what is concerned in a PDF document : « Unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and more than 0.55 pounts (250 grams) on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft and operated outdoors in the national airspace system must register ».

Military unmanned aircrafts have always been concerned by registration. Now all kinds of unmanned aicrafts are. Civilians are subdued to the same conditions whether they own a professional drone or a leisure one.

Drones and UAS have to be registered before february the 19th of 2016.


Why does FAA impose registration?


Unmanned aircraft, and particulary small ones, can cause troubles in the sky. They can’t be detected by  airplanes and are a danger for them. In France, there are differences of height: drones aren’t allowed to fly at a high altitude, they are limited to 150m, whereas airplanes have to fly above this threshold.

This solution prevents some risks. However, at the low altitude of drones, there are still helicopters, parachutists, etc. By registration, FAA hopes to be able to recognize some owners if an accident occurs, but it implies that the aircraft would still be in good condition and recognizable, which is unlikely after a collision; so in pratice, it probably won’t be as useful as wanted.


How do you register?


Different procedures are possible to register. They are enumarated in a digital document of the department of transportation of the FAA. You can send an email, a mail or a recorded letter, or a fax to Docket operations.

You have mandatory information to communicate. Some concern the unmanned aircraft, like the aircraft manufacturer and the model name. Others are information about the person who registers : applicant name, applicant physical adress, applicant e-mail adress and other information as required by the Administrator. If the person is less than 13, an authorized representative is needed for the name and e-mail.

Registration fee is five dollars for each aircraft.


What do you get ?


When the registration is done, the FAA delivers to you a Certificate of Aircraft Registration with the owner name, the issue date and the registration number. This document is effective for three years.

Every three years, the owner will have to renew his certificate and pay a fee of five dollars again. But he won’t have to go through all the procedure again. This is just a renewal.


What do you risk if you don’t register?


There are two cumulative penalties:

  • Regulatory: the FFA can pursue the owner up to an amount of 27.500 dollars.
  • Criminal: 250.000 dollars and three years of prison.

These amounts may be quite surprising towards owners. If military drones and UAS need to be controled and known, everybody don’t realize the impact of civilian ones. This is why their use needs to be supervised. Because nowadays, everyone can buy an unmanned aircraft; but do we know all the rules? These penalties intend to make owners aware of the requirements.


The registration concerns the United States of America. For now, Europe is still behind. We may have soon a registration file with all owners and drones/UAS. The real central point for prevention would be to force owners to follow a formation and to know the rules of good behaviour. The registration is not effective alone.


photo id.Claire Gimenes

Etudiante en Master 2 Gestion et Droit de l’Economie Numérique à l’Université de Strasbourg, je souhaite participer au développement du droit lié à l’émergence des nouvelles technologies.

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