(Photo courtesy of Don McCullough)

Earlier this week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its much-anticipated guidelines for the registration of privately owned drones. The move comes as the FAA seeks to improve measures for the safe operation of the unmanned aircraft, while boosting their reputation amongst those who fear the infringement of privacy as well. The timing of this announcement comes as no surprise either, as hundreds of thousands of new drones are expected to be sold during the holiday season ahead.

Right now, in terms of drone regulation, it’s a bit like the Wild West. While there are some rules in place that prohibit flying them in parks and other public spaces, but those regulations are seldom enforced. Worse yet, no one is entirely sure exactly where the no-fly zones begin and end, which only creates more confusion and conflict. The unfortunate result is that untrained pilots can cause accidents and crashes, which often end up on the nightly news. Those incidences, coupled with the perception of drones being used in covert military operations, has led the general public to see them as nothing more than an intrusive and dangerous use of technology.


(Photo courtesy of Gabriel Garcia Marengo)

Fortunately, the process for registering a drone is a simple one, and free for the first 30 days. Basically, if your personal UAV weighs anywhere from 0.55 to 50 pounds, it must be registered by February 19th, 2016. Registration begins on December 21, 2015 on the FAA website. Missing the deadline can get you $27,500 in Civil Penalties, plus up to $250,000 and or 3 years imprisonment in criminal penalties. So far, there has been no word on the process for registering commercially operated drones.

On the up side, the process is cheap and easy. To encourage registration, the FAA is providing a reimbursement of the meager $5 fee for registering your drone. All you need is a name, and both an email and home address, to complete the process. After that, you simply print your certificate and label your drone with the supplied ID number.


(Photo courtesy of Mauricio Lima)

Why is this good? Having a license is official! Right now, flying a drone makes people nervous. There are plenty of videos on the Internet of people swatting, knocking, shooting, and even fishing drones out of the air. This is because of misconceptions that include the idea that drones are used for spying on others by shady characters. But now, every pilot will have a federally issued document demonstrating that they are registered with the government. That registration implies compliance and oversight, which can go a long way to assisting their cause should security or the police be called to the scene.

The truth is that drones can be dangerous, just like RC helicopters or remote controlled planes are dangerous. They can turn into missiles if the pilot loses control. And since most drones have four or more blades, they can cause some serious damage. Having a system that can track those who uses drones responsibly, and adequately punish those who don’t, will ultimately be of benefit to everyone.