[UPDATED] If You Registered Your Drone with the FAA, Kiss Your Privacy Goodbye

Whoops! The mandatory unmanned aerial vehicle database is public and searchable.


drone guy
docpop / photo on flickr

[UPDATE: CEI policy analyst and drone nerd Marc Scribner writes to note that while there are some personal drones listed in the public database, that list is of people who registered their drones under a 2012 rule governing commercial drones. Registrants under the December rules are not in there. At least not yet…]

Are you a law-abiding drone owner who registered your unmanned aerial vehicle with the federal government? Congratulations! Total strangers can now find your name, address, and lots of stuff about your fun toy in a public, searchable database!

Late last year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that virtually everyone who owns a drone (a drone's a drone, no matter how small, it seems) would have to register their flying computers for $5 a pop with the federal government. The penalty for failing to register: civil fines of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for three years. 

Reason's Scott Shackford has written about the failure of the FAA to actually convince most people to register their drones.

And thank goodness for that incompetence, since it will offset this latest revelation of incompetence: The 300,000 entries in the federal UAV registry are public, searchable, and downloadable, despite claims by the feds to the contrary, Engadget reports.

Go ahead, search vehicle registrations in your neighborhood right here on this handy official webpage!

This registry includes private planes as well, but scan for "UAVs under 55 lbs" to see drones that have been registered under the new law.

What's more, as the think tank Heritage notes in a report released yesterday, the FAA registry fails to accomplish its stated goals of improving safety, providing accountability, and offering education to drone owners.

"It is clear that this regulatory response was rushed and arbitrary," conclude authors Jason Snead and John-Michael Seibler, "but there is also a pernicious side effect to this purposeless regulation: Otherwise innocent people are now exposed to criminal liability for no valid purpose."

Add to that list that innocent people have now had their privacy undermined as well.

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  1. Are Obama’s Predator drones in there?

  2. Um, name and address are already public info.

    Hell, my property taxes are posted online.

    1. For shaming purposes, no doubt.

    2. As well as political contributions.

      1. People who are dumb enough to give their money to politicians don’t deserve privacy.

  3. So if a nosey neighbor is buzzing my backyard I can narrow down the suspect list? Cool!

  4. (a drone’s a drone, no matter how small, it seems)

    So that $17 remote control helicopter I bought at Amazon and never learned to fly without crashing into the furniture is a “drone”?

    1. All your flight capable devices is belongs to us.

    2. It isn’t the size; it’s how you use it.

      1. It got up quick, but I kept ramming the ceiling fan. Was I doing it right?

        1. If by ‘ceiling fan’ you mean…oh never mind. Just make sure you cuddle with it after

  5. Wow. Just searched for LA County. The entire list IS downloadable in CSV or Excel.

    According to the search, my boss owns an airplane. I did not know that.
    I’ll keep it in mind when I’m negotiating my next contract.

    1. From what little I know about the subject, owning an airplane plane means he USED to have money.

  6. What?

    You mean that, if I buy or build a drone to spy on you, that means you can use the FAA to spy on me?


  7. and offering education to drone owners

    You should probably hold off on wishing for that one. I can just see it now ‘all drone owners shall be required to take 3 weeks of drone training, at their own cost of $300 per day’. Yeah, you’ve been warned.

    1. Psh, they’ll just restrict the “time, place, and manner” to daylight hours, registered model airplane air fields, and with a 100 foot tether.

  8. Do I need to license all 500 pieces my model airplane is in after smacking it into the ground? I could probably build 10 drones will all of my spare parts… do I need to license all of them???

    Inquiring minds need to know, I’d hate to get hauled off because the shattered remnants of my RC plane aren’t registered with the “proper” “authorities.”

    1. Ignorance of the insane, oppressive, constantly-shifting and intentionally vague drone laws is no excuse!

  9. Somebody who knows more about gun purchases than I do, please tell me, does the government keep a database of everyone who submits for a background check?

    I mean, if they were tracking our phone calls, they must be tracking who’s submitted for a background check to purchase a gun, right?

    1. Somebody who knows more about gun purchases than I do, please tell me, does the government keep a database of everyone who submits for a background check?

      That would be illegal, but it’s pretty widely accepted among gun owners that such a database does in fact exist.

      1. I don’t think the general population knows about 80% yet. I guess pundits don’t know about them either. I’ve never heard them mentioned outside of gun sites. And I hate to mention it here.

        I guess the first 80% polymer glock 17 just came out like a couple weeks ago. I hope that kind of thing keeps flying under the MSM’s radar forever.

        1. And yet it’s 80% METAL, by weight….

  10. Somebody who knows more about gun purchases than I do, please tell me, does the government keep a database of everyone who submits for a background check?

    I mean, if they were tracking our phone calls, they must be tracking who’s submitted for a background check to purchase a gun, right?

    1. I think, yes, since it goes to the FBI and they are going to be VEEEEERRRY careful about maintaining those records that don’t officially exist and that there is NO oversight for.

      Of course, if you build a gun yourself, no pesky serial numbers or anything…

    2. If the FBI is not outright retaining them in violation of the law, it’s apparent that they’re sharing them with agencies that do and/or cross referencing with other databases.

      Otherwise, there’d be no way to quantify how many people on one of the secret “terrorist” lists bought guns.

  11. I have a friend who is into such things, and is adamant that “drone” is not the correct term. To the cognoscenti, a drone is capable of autonomous flight, not any unmanned aerial vehicle.

    1. The way we used it was drone was fully autonomous, UAV was semi autonomous, and model plane was fully human controlled.

      It’s been a few years since I was in the UAV building hobby, though.

  12. So from a purely theoretical point of view were an individual so inclined. You could search the list for someone you didn’t like, forge their registration onto a drone and then when the drone should come to the authorities attention through thoughtless or hazardous operation it is up to them to prove they didn’t own it. (with all the financial costs such adventures entail)

    “Drone Swatting” ?? now in your neighborhood.

    1. I like that your post content is perfect for your username.
      Well done.

  13. Heh. Looks like there were exactly 3 individuals that registered a total of 8 UAVs in all of Travis County (Austin), Texas. One of them has DBA after his name (with the business name not listed), so he’s probably doing something commercial with his 3, and another has 4 registered. My spidey-senses tell me that the compliance rate isn’t real high.

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    You have to register your drone if you fly in your yard or over your property, but you do NOT need to register if it is indoors. The FAA does NOT regulate indoor usage.


  17. The idea that the Federal Government can suddenly, without Congressional Law, regulate & control toys that have ben in use for decades, is ludicrous.
    Anyone who reg’d their kids’ toy with the FAA just voluntarily gave away their (and probably their kids’) rights.
    What’s next, volunteering your phone number to Uncle Sam? Oh you already gave it to the IRS…

  18. After reading the article about drone https://www.liquidimageco.com/ I also decided to become a drone owner. But I do not plan to register it in such a database. The fact that such information is in the public domain is absurd!

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