No, Of Course People Aren't Registering Their Drones with the FAA

Only about a quarter of those sold over the holidays have been documented.


Born freeee! As freee as the wind blooows!
Credit: Richard Unten / photo on flickr

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted that somewhere around 700,000 personal drones (or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)) would be sold during the holiday season—the holiday season in which they rushed to implement a mandatory federal registration system.

This week the FAA announced how many actual drones have been registered with them since they actually lanched the system on December 21. That number: 181,000. That's about just a quarter of the drones that were sold for the holidays (assuming those estimates are correct). Keep in mind the new FAA rules also mandate citizens register drones they already own if they weigh more than the half-a-pound threshold. They can't even get new purchases registered, let alone previously owned machines.

They're actually still trying to work out point of sale registration for drones, according to Reuters:

FAA said it is working with the private sector on ways to streamline registration including new smart phone apps that could allow a manufacturer or retailer to register a drone automatically by scanning an identification code on the aircraft.

"As of today, about 181,000 aircraft have been registered," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. "But this is just the beginning. Now that we have set up the registration system, our challenge is to make sure everyone is aware of the requirement and registers."

Or, you know, sue the FAA, claiming it is exceeding its authority with such a registration system. A model airplane pilot in Maryland named John Taylor is suing the FAA, challenging its authority to create the registry. Taylor argues that existing federal law prohibits the FAA from setting up new rules or regulations for model aircraft flown for hobby or recreational purposes. Read more about his case here.


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  1. 700,000?! Holy shit.

    These are just toys for dads, right?

    1. They’re fucking awesome is what they are.

  2. FUCK THAT! They can wrap their fucking demand in an Ars Technica and shove it up their rat-infested ass.

  3. “our challenge is to make sure everyone is aware of the requirement and registers”

    Ahhhh, no, this is not a requirement. A requirement would be due a law passed by the legislative authority with the consent of the governed. This,.. is a regulation written by un-elected bureaucrats with an agenda. This has no more authority than me requiring Lois Lerner to give me a hand job before I’ll pay my taxes.

    1. Not to mention:

      Keep in mind the new FAA rules also mandate citizens register drones they already own if they weigh more than the half-a-pound threshold.

      What an idiotic threshold. Apparently nobody with a degree in science or engineering works for the FAA. The agency itself must be composed of mindless drones that can do nothing but weigh freight and cart baggage.

      Who cares about things like thrust, guidance, and payload that might actually be dangerous to someone/anyone (and are already regulated under ITAR)? The FAA has got to find a way to get its grift on!

      1. Mindless drones or power grabbing whores?

      2. The old school RC hobbyists are not happy, because they fall under these rules as well.

        1. Oh, they applied that to fixed-wing, non-autopilot craft as well? Fuck that shit.

    2. That’s a terrible idea, Lorenzo. You just KNOW Lerner wouldn’t use lube.

      1. I’m a libertarian, I like it rough.

  4. Only about a quarter of those sold over the holidays have been documented.

    25% of people getting drones actually registered them? We’re doomed.

    1. Do you know how many people who buy GMRS radios from Target or WalMart actually get a FCC license?

      1. Zero because people don’t read the instructions. I haven’t purchased a post-regulation drone yet, but I’ll bet the domestic drone manufacturers are all over “compliance”.

      2. Also, those GMRS radios (at least the ones I have) can be used sans license.

        According to mine, channels below 14 (I believe– maybe it’s 7) and using the ‘low power transmission’ mode require no license. If I wander into the upper channels and/or use the high-power transmission mode, SWAT team inbound baby.

    2. Amazon steers you to the FAA website. That’s about it. I stopped reading after they asked for $5.

      1. I know that many of the drone forums were all over the subject, and a disappointing number of Legal Eagles were chastising people trying to circumvent ‘within 5 miles of an airport’ no-fly zone restrictions.

        I’m always a little shocked at the sheer volume of people fighting their way to the front of the obedience line.

  5. Ok, maybe some of the commentariat can help me understand this. How are these fundamentally different than RC planes and helicopters that have been around for decades? Is it just that they are now able to go higher and faster? Are they controlled by magic or the Force? (I mean it is all EM radiation, whether it is AM, FM, microwave whatever).

    1. I would assume its because ‘drones’ are
      a) Generally less expensive than an RC plane
      b) Less prone to disintegration when they crash.

      This means a massive increase in the # of people who would get one.

      When it was just a few tens of thousands of RC nerds the FAA regarded it as no big deal.

      A few years back I got the idea that I wanted to get an RC plane. Entry level models were way more than I wanted to pay for a toy. I didn’t get one.

    2. How are these fundamentally different than RC planes and helicopters that have been around for decades?

      I think, rather obviously/intentionally, it’s a collection of features rather than a fundamental difference to create an “I’ll know it when I see it.” situation.

      If there is a key difference that is held above the others, I’d say it’s autonomy/programmability that distinguishes a UAV from a Radio-Controlled Aircraft.

      1. They aren’t. In fact, the new rules are affecting those old RC planes and helicopters and the RC hobbyists are not happy about it.

        1. Like I said above, this is/was ham-handed. I could make up all kinds of regulations and even give plausible scenarios why public disclosure/licensing might be good/required possibly even within libertarian constructs (e.g. localized autonomous payload delivery).

          The FAA didn’t bother themselves with such ideological Constitutional Rights mumbo-jumbo.

      2. I think, rather obviously/intentionally, it’s a collection of features rather than a fundamental difference to create an “I’ll know it when I see it.” situation.

        You know who else tried to ban something based on a “collection of features”?

        1. No. Who?

    3. The features. Quadcopters are cheap, easy to fly, and have features that cause some people to do stupid things, like flying them near airports.

      Mine has a video downlink, so I can see what it sees in real time on my iPad. It’s almost like having your own news helicopter. I haven’t done anything stupid with it, but other people have.

      1. I haven’t done anything stupid with it, but other people have.

        I would hardly call viewing your neighbor’s nude sunbathing ‘stupid’.

        1. He lives in A – so its not like he has to worry about his neighbor coming over and shooting him for that. After all, they have *background checks* there.

      2. With regards to half-pound, hell even five pound quad copters, the airport thing is a red herring. To begin with they have very limited range and flight time. Next, many of these people caught flying drones within five miles of an airport did so in their own yard. Finally, these toys cannot cause even minor damage to an aircraft, never mind bring one down. It would take a sizable drone to damage a small single engine, to hurt a jetliner it would take a very large drone.

        1. Given that large airliners can take bird strikes to the face at 300+ MPH, the whole ‘you might bring an aircraft down’ shrieking is just pathetic.

          Even running it through the engine isn’t likely to do anything more than add a couple hours to the next ground maintenance check.

          1. The stated fear is that one of these will be sucked into a turbine. Granted, aircraft are most vulnerable during takeoff and landing, so there is something to that. But the scare-mongering does seem to have resonated with the public.

            As always, the shibboleth of transmitterz interfering with avionics is trotted out. Given the huge amount of RF radiation around airports, particularly high-powered stuff like radar, that is BS. But the informed flying public has known that for years since the cellphone prohibition is also BS.

            1. The centrifugal force that will be imparted upon the drone by the fan blades with throw it to the outside bypass of the engine. As it will be chopped to pieces and pass through the bypass with no impact on the function of the engines.

      3. What Pl?ya said. Old school RC aircraft were a bitch to fly, had a steep learning curve and appealed only to dedicated hobbyists. The new drones have made them much easier to use, so it’s a penetration issue. Ironic that they are coming down on what are essentially toys (at the low end) and for years ignored the smaller number of larger and more capable aircraft.

  6. This is going to be about as successful as the FCC requiring licenses for the GMRS radios you can buy at Target and WalMart.

    1. This will be like the requirement that private gun purchases submit to a background check:

      How will the statists know unless someone does something wrong with the drone. Similarly, unless the gun is seized and the owner is sought, and it is not who submitted to the last background check.

      Most people are willing to take that chance.

  7. As an owner of an arsenal of “death dealing drones” ,aka model airplanes, the new regulations are like swatting a gnat with a flamethrower. The whole issue arouse, reportedly, from the spotting of drones by pilots during landing. As it is already against the law, and common sense and courtesy, to fly our “death dealing drones” near airports, these new regulations are only more government FYTW. I do not know how many RC airplanes I have (the orphans construct these in my basement) and everyone of them are now considered contraband because they do not have a registration number.

    Most of the RC fliers i know are of the “they can kiss my ass” opinion, but there are some who have been suckered into registering. The fee is waived if you register before the 15th.

    1. How does the Academy of Model Aviation feel about this?

      1. About the registration; not your collection, or your orphans…

        1. They have told everyone to wait and see. They lobbied agin’it but to no avail. They are currently trying to get the AMA registration in lieu of federal registration. Cronyism?

  8. This article is misleading. You don’t register individual drones. You register yourself and are given one number you put on all your drones.

  9. In my unadorned view, the companies making and offering these things (drones) to the idiot public aught to be held responsible, without limits, for any and all damages done with/created by their products, the same way gun makers were pilloried, having been blamed for the antics of people they neither knew nor had any control over.

    While some, actually myself included, would say that such stupidity was grossly wrong and evil, the possibility of such actions or antics strike one as “interesting”.

  10. The figure of drone that registered absolutely not accurate. Many people consider a drones for a personal use and not causing harmful to others. The monitoring and registration should start from the manufacturing before goes to the public. Many people took advantage of this technology and the FAA should be really get alarmed.

    There are many possible wrong outcome when the drones is not monitored properly. This could lead to invading someone’s privacy and it’s totally not acceptable by the law.


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