Drones

The FAA's New Drone Registration Rules Are Out, and They're Hilarious

Agency demands you retroactively report any device weighing more than half a pound.

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Somehow the FAA snuck into Peter Suderman's closet for this picture.
FAA

Today the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced who will have to comply with its proposed drone or unmanned aircraft system (UAS) registration rules.

Prepare for some headaches. Or possibly shrugs. The FAA wants every American to register every drone that weighs more about half a pound, or 250 grams. And they have decided that the registry will be retroactive.

If you already have a drone or have had one for years, and it weighs more than .55 pounds, you have been ordered by the FAA to prepare to register your information and pay $5 to the FAA. The $5 covers any number of drones you may own, and if you register within 30 days of the FAA's system opening up (it begins on Dec. 21), the $5 will be reimbursed.

If you refuse to register your drone to the FAA, their FAQ wastes very little time telling pilots they could face civil fines of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for three years. I'd ask how the FAA intends to prove that individuals who purchased a UAS before the registration system was implemented would know about its existence, but that would assume the government would care about any such thing.

The weight requirement eliminates most toy drones that fit in the palm of the hand, and the FAA put together a page showing examples of some of the smaller drones that will be exempt from registration. Any drone that is likely to be used for filming or surveillance will probably fall on the heavier side of the cut-off, though there are some exceptions in some of the smaller drones.

Of course, technology being what it is, it's easy to imagine this new rule being just another incentive for drone manufacturers to find ways to make their products smaller and smaller so as not to force customers into a federal registration regime.

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  1. I’ll be back later, I’m shopping for my 249 gram drone right now.

      1. The notion that that can be a thing is some of the evilest fuckery to ever evilly fuck someone.

        “Sure, you’re following the law, but it looks like you’re trying to limit our involvement, so we’ll treat you like you’re breaking it.”

        It’s probably good I’m not a cyborg or superpowered mutant or something, because the temptation to go full supervillaln would be overwhelming.

        Or maybe I’d be a superhero, from a certain point of view.

    1. In 5 years, we will be talking about the “Drone Loophole” that allows manufacturers to “skirt” the legislation.

  2. 25 years ago, a speaker on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line remarked that the then newfangled GPS system meant anyone with a model airplane could fly a hand grenade through your window.

    1. Military hardware companies embiggened that concept in a hurry.

  3. Registration will make all those “dangerous” drones safer. Oh, wait, it won’t accomplish anything at all except lead to the next step: flight plans.

  4. Didn’t someone ask what Geofencing was? I didn’t answer the question but uhh, yeah, welcome to it.

  5. Well, at least the FAA did something, which is more than we can say for Nick Gillespie.

    1. And what can you prove of yourself?

      1. There was a drone problem in this country and your libertarian philosophy wouldn’t let you do anything about it. The FAA did something, which is why you can’t stand it.

        1. The FAA took my baby away
          They took her away
          Away from meee

        2. Drone problem?

          1. At any moment criminals could be smuggling narcotics into your child’s bedroom without filing a flight plan.

            1. There is a toy “cargo carrying” drone which I believe is designed to drop a lego brick. Yes, this seems like it could easily be modified to carry other small objects.

              1. Proactive “crime” prevention?

              2. “You can put your weed in there.”

                1. I prefer a dog with a bandana

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bnjfq5kTZ7w

              3. Like a paperclip, or, horrors! a peanut!

                Seriously, a Lego weighs a gram.

        3. There was a drone problem? Please do tell us what that problem is.

          Then tell us how this fixes it.

  6. And they have decided that the registry will be retroactive.

    HAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA! I guess I’m gonna have to register the bits and pieces of my model airplane that are in my garage!

    Also, for the lols:

    Q. Do I have to register a paper airplane, or a toy balloon or Frisbee?
    A. No. Even if these things could be considered “drones” or “unmanned aircraft” and met the minimum weight threshold of 250 gm/0.55 lb., the registration rules also require that they be a part of an “unmanned aircraft system.” An “unmanned aircraft system” includes the communication links and components that control the small unmanned aircraft along with all of the other elements needed to safely operate the drone. Paper airplanes, toy balloons, Frisbees, and similar items are not connected to such control system.

  7. Outlandish, and a total waste of resources paying people to actually devise rules that accomplish nothing and hopefully most, if not all, will ignore. I’m growing so very tired of this.

  8. 3 years in prison for flying a drone in my front yard unless I get permission from Washington. Land of the free!

    1. 3 years in prison for your kid flying his toy in the back yard without permission from Washington. I wonder, will the local police be responsible for investigation or is the FAA going to establish a new Drone Enforcement Agency?

      1. You joke, but you may be on to something. AFAIK the FAA doesn’t have its own police force; this is just the excuse they need.

        1. Air Marshals are described as “Peace Officers” under the jurisdiction of the FAA.

          Want a fun game,… find a federal agency that doesn’t have armed “peace officers.”

          1. The National Endowment for the Arts? (Note – don’t really no, but can’t find evidence of an armed enforcement arm)

            1. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’re on the list for an MRAP.

      2. Also, I don’t think local po-po can enforce federal laws unless they are part of a task force or have a special agreement. This came up a while back about local sheriffs (Arpaio) wanting to enforce immigration law.

        1. Task force it is. How else is the DoD going to get rid of all those Patriot missile batteries? We must have surface to air missiles in order to counter the growing drone threat from meth labs, jenkem huffers, and sex traffickers here in flyover country.

  9. As a great American on this site has said many times, freedom means taking orders and asking permission.

  10. Of course, technology being what it is, it’s easy to imagine this new rule being just another incentive for drone manufacturers to find ways to make their products smaller and smaller so as not to force customers into a federal registration regime.

    Nah, the manufacturers of major drones like Yuneec or DJI are all too happy to comply, I’ll bet.

    It was talked about here before, but the aforementioned companies geofence their products with the latest firmware where you can’t even spin up the motors if you’re within something like 5 miles of an airport. For those people who live in well-populated or urban-ish areas, that pretty much means your greater metropolitan area.

    It’s really disappointing too because in my area, there are some fantastic areas with HUGE parade grounds surrounded by woods that command fantastic views of mountains and water. These are areas that aren’t in any flight path and if you went to them, you’d be all, “I can’t fly my drone HERE?”

    Nope.

    1. It’s not five miles, which is beyond the limits of most drones, even the high-end DJI consumer model. Forget what the exact limit is and don’t have the manual on this computer.

      I understand why DJI built that into their drones – the liability would be huuuuuge if one of those “interfered” with a commercial airliner.

      Not a drone owner, but I did some consulting for one.

      1. According to the best info I can find, DJI blocks a 5 mile radius to the one major international airport. Which is strange, because we have three in my area.

        I can’t find data on Yuneec, but everything I read is it’s within 4-5 miles of ALL airports of a certain class, which includes the three airports in my area- if not several more, which puts like a gajillion miles of great flying territory out of reach. Unfortunately the Yuneec is hard to get hard data, beyond frustrated users who say they can’t fly because they’re withing x miles of y airport.

  11. I saw a drone on Shark Tank a couple weeks ago that attaches to a smart phone. I wonder if the FAA considers the phone to be part of the overall drone apparatus?

    1. Also, the drone from the TV show was self-navigating, so there’s no radio control. This could get interesting, as it’s the phone doing all the controlling. Does the FAA expect registration of phones, in that case?

      Common-sense phone control NOW!!

      1. The DJI Phantom can be flown either manually or via auto-pilot (ie, GPS-enabled with waypoints).

        The smartphone is optional for the DJI. You can fly the drone entirely with the remote. The phone app allows you to livestream footage and to do the autopilot functions.

        1. The one on Shark Tank was way more simple. It’s literally just propellers with a box in which to house the phone. Without a phone, the drone does nothing. Just an interesting grey area for the FAA, and possibly for someone to litigate…

          1. Didn’t see that. I’m trying to restrict my comments to the one drone with which I’m intimately familiar; it’s a popular high-end consumer model.

              1. Oh, that’s interesting. The phone mounts in the drone to take advantage of the camera, GPS and CPU of the phone. I don’t like that because when you lose your drone you also lose your phone, and also have that phone traceable back to you if you lose it over hostile territory.

                1. Hostile Territory? Just don’t fly drones over North Korea.

  12. Prepare for some headaches. Or possibly shrugs.

    […]

    If you refuse to register your drone to the FAA, their FAQ wastes very little time telling pilots they could face civil fines of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for three years.

    Oh, and it needs to be said again, let’s hope when we next spin the cylinder of democracy, it lands on an empty chamber.

    1. Nah, I’ve given up hoping for that.

  13. A year or so ago I was at a formal dinner where I was seated next to a lawyer who was responsible for National Parks policies. He was eager for these regulations to be enacted. His example was that someone had crashed a drone into a Yellowstone lake, and someone else had buzzed an amphitheater at Mt. Rushmore. He seemed to think these regulations would help.
    http://www.latimes.com/travel/…..story.html

    1. They might. Hit a couple people with $27,000 in fines, publicize it, and people will just decide it’s not worth the risk of flying in national parks.

    2. Lawyers are for ANYTHING that makes for more lawsuits or court cases. it’s a new business opportunity.

      1. Lawyers are for ANYTHING that makes for more lawsuits or court cases. it’s a new business opportunity.

        FIFY

  14. A Star Wars reference? Really, was that necessary?

    DO YOU WANT ME TO GO? IS THAT WHAT YOU TELLING ME, SCOTT?

    *slams door shattering windows on the way out*

  15. “Prepare for some headaches. Or possibly shrugs. The FAA wants every American to register every drone that weighs more about half a pound, or 250 grams. And they have decided that the registry will be retroactive.”

    Meanwhile, you can buy and fly a single seat ultralight helicopter with no pilot’s license or aircraft registration.

    http://rotorfx.com/aircraft_se…..ter_sales/

    1. I suspect the exception for ultralight, crewed aircraft will be the thing that causes the FAA to back down on this, or be told to back down by the courts. Of course, once that happens the FAA will turn around and redo the regulations for ultralight aircraft.

  16. Dang, my home-brewed GLCM integrated on my pick-up truck was just about done. Guess I’ll have to register it now before the big day.

    1. it’s a self-defense GLCM,of course.

  17. ” I’d ask how the FAA intends to prove that individuals who purchased a UAS before the registration system was implemented would know about its existence, but that would assume the government would care about any such thing.”

    Ignorance of our retroactive laws is no excuse!

    1. I suspect that vendors such as DJI will send notice to everyone who purchased a drone directly from them, or sent in a warranty registration for a drone purchased from a dealer. The liability would be to great not to.

      Fortunately, a lot of those drones were purchased as gifts.

      Grandma: Something from the Government about Billie’s toy helicopter.
      Grandpa: Here [sound of paper shredder]

  18. We keep using the term “drones”.. and we all wink and nod at each other knowing what we mean.

    Is this now a “drone”? And since kids have been flying these around since the 60s, they’re subject to registration too, no?

    1. Yep – they are and have to registered if more that .55 lb – which is many, many R/C planes, helicopters and such. All now considered “drones”.

      I don’t think they made any distinction between number or rotors, etc.

    2. Since at least back in the 1980s (and probably before), if you operated a model aircraft on an amateur radio band, you had to affix your call sign to their aircraft.

  19. I’d ask how the FAA intends to prove that individuals who purchased a UAS before the registration system was implemented would know about its existence, but that would assume the government would care about any such thing.

    Sounds to me like the FAA is going to be switching resources to youtube watching. When will that drone flamethrower kid be prosecuted?

  20. I wonder if these fines are going to be given out without due process, like the $11k fines that the TSA can lay on you.

    1. LOL, JB. You know it. But you can sue to appeal the decision.

      Look for a whole new class of “administrative law judges” to administer the regulations.

  21. Can someone smarter than me please explain the relationship between the registration requirement and the supposed safety concerns? I understood that people are concerned that drones will be used near airplanes and cause crashes, or maybe will fall and hit people or somehow damage property. Maybe those are legit concerns. I don’t know. But how does registering the drone prevent any of that? Is this just supposed to be a way to identify the owner so that you can punish him when the drone is used unsafely?

    1. It’s to get their foot in the door so they can add more onerous restrictions later.

    2. Basically, their FAQ says that registration will magically make people more accountable and responsible. I’m not sure how that works, but that’s what they say.

      1. Cause decades of vehicle registrations has curbed drunk driving, speeding, red light running, road rage, dickhead driving, incompetent driving, etc.

    3. Is this just supposed to be a way to identify the owner so that you can punish him when the drone is used unsafely?

      FTFY

    4. “But how does registering the drone prevent any of that?”

      In the same way that registering guns makes it impossible to use them in a mass shooting! /prog

    5. I assume if you register you have to put make/model serial number. So if it is involved in an accident they can find the owner. Which brings another issue… What happens when you sell it, now you have do de-register it and have the new owner register it.

      Then…..if it works for drones it will work for guns.

  22. From the FAQ, their non-sensical reasoning behind the registration scheme:

    Q: A pilot cannot read a number on a drone so how will registering protect traditional aircraft?
    A: A registration requirement encourages a culture of accountability and responsibility. Much like registering a motor vehicle, registering a drone ties a specific person to a specific aircraft. Greater accountability will help protect innovation, which is in danger of being undermined by reckless behavior. This requirement mirrors the requirement for manned operations and commercial UAS operations.

    From earlier in the FAQ:

    Q. Do I have to provide any information on my UAS?
    A. Individual recreational users do not have to enter the make, model, and serial number. All non-recreational users will be required to provide the make, model, and serial number when the website is available to all other users.
    Q. If I own multiple drones, do I have to register them all?
    A. No. You may register once and apply the same registration number to all your UAS.

    So it ties a person to a specific drone (since you have to mark the aircraft with the number), but you can register multiple drones on one registration, so it ties a person to multiple drones, except that if you lend your drone to somebody you have to give them your registration papers, so it ties any number of drones piloted by any number of people to a number. I’m confused.

    1. Because no one intent on committing a crime would ever think to remove those markings.

      1. Firstly, there’s nothing to remove. Once you buy the drone, *you’re* supposed to mark it yourself with the number. And it has to be legible!

        Plus they “answer” that in the FAQ, and by that I mean they put a bunch of words together that don’t answer it at all, thought it does give them an excuse to further the “SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING” culture.

        Q: Someone intent on harm will not register a drone, so doesn’t this requirement just penalize responsible people who are excited about UAS?
        A: Although no system or requirement is 100 percent effective against people intent on doing harm, registration heightens public awareness about what safe UAS operations look like. In addition, registration establishes a shared understanding that operating this type of aircraft for business or pleasure comes with certain responsibilities and expectations and that the public will be watching for and reporting bad actors, just as they do today for other safety and security-related concerns. Registration also enables us to educate UAS owners on safe operations.

        1. “the public will be watching for and reporting bad actors, just as they do today for other safety and security-related concerns”

          Such as?

          How does submitting my name allow them to educate me? All it does is tie my name to a list. Oh, and the government has an exceptional record of protecting that sort of list. /sarc

    2. But… ” Individual recreational users do not have to enter the make, model, and serial number”

      So, wtf?

  23. As long as I can fly my 3.5 lb. Yak 54, it’s all good. Really, that’s perfectly legal but a Parrot Quad copter isn’t? That’s just Fucked up

    1. Yusef,

      Your Yak 54 is probably going to have to be registered. I don’t think all R/C aircraft meet the definition of a drone.

      1. OF COURSE a RC airplane of 250 Grams or must be registered,because they meet all the specifications for a human guided unmanned air vehicle. There’s NO difference between an RC airplane and a “drone”.
        An RC airplane can be flown into a passenger jet or helo just like any quadcopter. they can and do carry cameras and other payloads. some RC aircraft are incredibly fast,too,jets or ducted fan planes that fly at 200 MPH or more.

  24. Dear FAA. My dick.

  25. This will complied with at the same level as NY or CT gun registrations…

  26. Since June 1, the FAA has received 25 official close calls notices between drones and airliners at airports, this is a good first step. Usually it takes a collision with a drone and a crash with many deaths for the first step to be taken. The next step is no fly zones for drones over airports. There is one company marketing a gun to “shoot” down drones electronically so the drone is not damaged. That makes it easier to trace who owns the drone and registration makes it even easier.

    Airports take measures against bird strikes. We should do that same with drone strikes. It is only a matter of time before an actual collision will happen. Just hope you are not on that plane when it does happen.

    1. We need responsible bird registration!

      1. Many airports just kill the birds. To avoid protests by PETA and other bleeding heart liberals many employ birds of prey to sweep the area around the airport to kill or scare away the birds.

        With drones the protests are more likely to come from bleeding heart libertarians but they are no where as effective a protest group as liberals and can be ignored.

    2. Since you seem to support these regs, maybe you can explain how registration of drones will prevent collisions with airplanes? From the looks of it, they aren’t even requiring recreational owners to identify their drones in the registration information, so they won’t even be able to link a specific drone to a specific person after the fact.

      1. It is very obvious. We do not live in the Minority Report universe where the government has the ability to predict and arrest people before they can commit a crime. So we arrest them after they have committed the crime. Registration has proven to be a useful tool for catching the criminals after that fact. That is all that can be done in Real Life as opposed to the fantasy of internet discussion where strawmen arguments abound.

        It is not a perfect system but that is the Real World for you. However the track record with for example car registration has shown that sometimes it can lead to the criminals. The next step is mandatory serial numbers on drones. There is no right to own drones in the Constitution any more than there is a right to own cars or planes for that matter.

        1. People commit crimes with all manner of equipment, crowbars for example. Should we register crowbars because someone might use one to break into a house, thereby making it easier to catch burglars. Vandals sometimes throw rocks through windows. Should we register rocks to make it easier to catch vandals?

        2. Seriously dude, wtf are you even doing here?

          1. Teaching us about the proper role of registration, obviously! When in doubt, the government needs a list with your name on it (…which also requires you to pay to get your name on that list).

        3. There is no right to own drones in the Constitution.

          Moron. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate our rights. Where the f*ck did you you go to school?

          Speaking of school, please tell me you aren’t a teacher.

        4. ” Individual recreational users do not have to enter the make, model, and serial number”

        5. But the registration does not require any information linking the owner to a particular drone, so how are they going to use it to catch criminals after the fact? The registration is just a long list of people that own drones, with no information on the actual drones.

    3. You do know that it’s already illegal to fly a drone in airport airspace right? How is registering a child’s toy going to make it more traceable?

      1. It is very obvious. There is also currently NO enforcement of the no fly rule. 21 near misses is evidence of that. Registration is clearly only one of many steps that need to be done. The next step is a method of enforcing the no fly law by taking down the drones. Then forensic analysis such as looking for registration numbers, fingerprints, etc. can be used to find and arrest the violators.

        Registration MAY have a minor but only a minor preventative effect. Once people realize that there is a way to trace a drone back to them, SOME may be more careful about where they fly them. But this is minor as stupidity is all too common even when there is no malicious intent.

        Also a child’s toy will take down an airliner with hundreds of people on board if it is sucked into an engine. You better hope you are not on the plane when that happens. Airports routinely clean the runways to prevent even small ground debris from being sucked into a jet engine.

        1. No, a child’s drone cannot, I repeat cannot bring down a jet aircraft that can carry hundreds of people. Wanna know how I know that? Because I know that a jet engine can survive a strike from a frozen four pound bird. I know that the aircraft has multiple engines and can take off on just one. I know that the aluminum or CF airframe is stronger than any drone made. It would be astonishing for a child’s drone to take down a Mooney.

          Second, lack of enforcement is justification to collect data on millions of innocent people? Try this on for size, fuck off idiot.

          1. Re: the frozen bird — yeah, I remember watching a documentary on the 777 showing how they shot said birds into the engines for testing. Lotta fun.

            1. They actually started doing it at P&W back in the 60’s during development of the engine for the
              747. Originally they used live birds for testing accuracy, but, someone complained it was inhumane.

        2. You’re pulling our collective legs, right?

        3. Also a child’s toy will take down an airliner with hundreds of people on board if it is sucked into an engine.

          Cite please.

          Actually, forget it. It’s quite obvious you’re just making sh*t up. By the way…it’s not very well known, but the right to make sh*t up isn’t actually in the Constitution. It’s true! I didn’t believe it, but I just checked and it isn’t there!!!!!!ELEVENTY11!!!!

    4. You do know that it’s already illegal to fly a drone in airport airspace right? How is registering a child’s toy going to make it more traceable?

  27. The weight requirement eliminates most toy drones that fit in the palm of the hand

    But you could drone your eye out!

  28. I wonder if these evil bastards ever considered requiring drone manufacturers to have the drones fence themselves in by height and proximity to areas with heavy air traffic?

    Oh, then they wouldn’t have a list of everyone with a drone and collect fees. What was I thinking?

    1. Oh, they’re doing that too.

  29. Ban ’em. Why does anyone *need* a drone?

    1. Hard to televise a lot of sports action at a distance, , from fishing to polo, without them.

      1. That “why does anyone need…” is a running gag here.

      2. Polo, ok, but why would anyone televise fishing?

    2. Just wait til ATF creates an administrative rule requiring registration of XXX.

  30. Registration based on weight makes no sense. It should be based on range, if anything. If someone is doing something with a drone they should not be doing, it will be fairly easy to find if you only have a several hundred foot range and anything more than that would require registration. That would eliminate need to register most toy drones and would be more effective for what you are trying to prevent.

  31. Of course, technology being what it is, it’s easy to imagine this new rule being just another incentive for drone manufacturers to find ways to make their products smaller and smaller so as not to force customers into a federal registration regime.

    In other words, state-driven innovation.

    That’s what we’re talking about people.

  32. So now all model RC airplanes over 249 grams have to register. they meet the specification of a “drone”.
    I can see this swamping the FAA and achieving nothing,except enlarging the FAA’s employee roster and budget.
    Which is the real goal.

  33. Question: would it be difficult for someone to build a drone if they had a bit of mechanical and electronic know-how?

  34. This is the typical busybody response to something new: find out what they’re doing and make them stop it.

  35. Wow man I never thought about it liek that before. Makes sense dude.

    http://www.GoneAnon.tk

  36. Fuck of FAA.

    You too DEA, NSA, and FCC.

  37. $250,000 and imprisonment for three years for not registering a drone….
    Yeah…that seems like a reasonable penalty, taking away 3 years of someone’s life.

  38. Looking forward to reading at Reason about overzealous federal prosecutors recommending that people serve the maximum prison time for not registering their drones and then having the unmitigated gall to not plead out. Matter of time really.

  39. What if two drones fly in formation? They could carry a coconut between them?

    Would that be intent to make a drone 250 grams?

    1. A coconut? That’s a little hard to swallow.

      1. For an African maybe, but not a European.

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