Skip to content
Naked Security Naked Security

Buzz your drones over to registration, recommends FAA

As the holidays promise flocks of new drones darkening the skies, the FAA recommends free registration for UAVs between .5 and 55 lbs.

Heft that beribboned package!

Does it weigh less than 55 pounds? Does it perhaps have the mass and dimensions to be a hobby drone?

Get ready to register that new toy if it does turn out to be a small, unmanned aircraft system weighing between half a pound (250 grams) – and 55 lbs (25 kgs).

In other words, what the FAA likes to call sUAS.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), scampering to prepare for flocks of drones expected to be unwrapped next month over the holidays, on Monday released a list of recommendations for how to better monitor recreational use of the machines.

Under the proposal, most drone owners would have to register the machines with the federal government, which would place the information in a national database in what would be the first time for such requirements.

The skies are already filled with hobby drones.

The swarms are going to be thicker still: The Consumer Technology Association forecasts that 400,000 drones will be sold in the US this holiday season.

That figure doesn’t even include the commercial drones being developed by Google (now known as Alphabet), Amazon, Wal-Mart and others.

The FAA’s recommendations aren’t rules yet, but they likely will be in the coming month.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta last week said in a post that there’s still time for public comment, but a final version of the rules will likely be released in December and go into effect shortly thereafter.

Registering drones will “instill a sense of accountability and responsibility among UAS pilots,” he said.

From his post:

By some estimates, as many as 400,000 new unmanned aircraft will be sold during the holiday season. Pilots with little or no aviation experience will be at the controls of many of these aircraft. Many of these new aviators may not even be aware that their activities in our airspace could be dangerous to other aircraft - or that they are, in fact, pilots once they start flying their unmanned aircraft.

The recommendations come out of a special task force the FAA pulled together with the purpose of figuring out how to wrangle the proliferation of drones.

The task force was co-chaired by FAA drone chief Earl Lawrence and Dave Vos, who leads Google’s drone program, known as Project Wing.

Also on board were 24 other drone, aeronautics and aviation experts from Amazon, Best Buy, GoPro, Walmart and multiple industry groups and associations.

Vos said that there was a lot of compromise involved in coming up with the guidelines:

It is a great statement that all of the members on this task force have really rolled up their sleeves and were willing to work very, very hard hard to find the right compromise.

Nobody gets exactly what they want, but everyone got most of what they want.

In its report, the task force recommended that drone operators:

  1. Fill out a registration form online or through an app.
  2. Immediately receive an electronic certificate of registration and a personal universal registration number for use on all sUAS owned by that person.
  3. Mark the registration number (or registered serial number) on all applicable sUAS prior to their operation in the national airspace system (NAS).

Some important takeaways:

  • The operators would be registered, not the drones. Google’s Vos said the recommendation is for the same registration number to be used on each drone owned by a given operator: “What we’re recommending at this point is that each owner has a registration number and if that owner owns one airplane or a hundred airplanes the same registration number can be used on all the airplanes that that owner owns.”
  • The only registration requirements are name and address. There is, though, a suggested minimum age of 13. Sharing email addresses, phone numbers or mailing addresses would be optional for those who’d like to receive, for example, education materials or other information from the FAA. Registration wouldn’t require information on citizenship or residence status.
  • Registration will likely be free, so watch out for scams. The FAA warned that one company has already offered to help people register their drones for a fee. Don’t fall for it, the FAA said: rather, hang tight and wait for details about the drone registration system before paying anyone to do the work for you.
  • No rules are changing yet. The FAA’s guidance, at least for now, remains the same: Don’t fly anything that weighs more than 55 pounds; fly them within your line of sight and below 400 feet; stay at least 5 miles away from an airport or manned aircraft; avoid flying near people, stadiums or other crowded places; take classes or join a club for extra safety; and always inspect the craft before you fly.

Plenty of drones are, of course, getting into all sorts of trouble by avoiding such guidance, as they hover over playgrounds and London’s Hyde Park, drop packets of drugs into prisons, gawk at sunbathers, follow somebody home and then hover outside their bedroom window, buzz at 365 meters (1200 feet) above Liverpool city center, fly over a house of neighbors tied up in a six-year boundary dispute, linger above people to apparently record them as they enter their PINs into ATMs, get a bellyful of birdshot courtesy of a privacy-loving/rifle-toting neighbor, cause airborne wildfire fighters to drop their loads of fire retardant and turn around lest they collide, and get operators arrested for flying over the White House.

Busy little suckers.

Rules? Yes. Regulations?

Yes yes yes.

Bring it on.

Image of Christmas drone courtesy of


So this is going to be like CB radio licenses in the 70’s, where CB sales boomed and buyers scoffed at and ignored the license requirement. The FAA doesn’t have the staff to enforce this and they’re not about to round up a bunch of kids with 7oz toys flying around an empty soccer field, nor are they going to prosecute soccer moms. This entire registration scheme does nothing for enforcement, misuse investigation, or anything else. The registry serves no legitimate purpose and will be largely ignored and scoffed at. This is another gov’t boondoggle.


that may be true, but something does need to be done. this at least give law enforcement the tools they need to prosecute people misusing drones. like most laws, this is only needed when someone is doing the wrong thing. I for one will be happy about it if someone decides to follow my daughter with a drone and i take it down. at least at that point there will be some accountability.


It’s hardly a tool. They have to take possession of the drone and hope it has some number written on it.

You take a drone down and you’re going to find yourself on the short end of the criminal and civil sticks. There’s a few cowboys that have come before you and found that that attitude costs them thousands, they have to fight off a felony charge, and risk losing their freedom. Thinking you can destroy property make you much more of a threat than some 2lb DJI Phantom. Make you should look up Marti Wlodsarski – this is today’s latest case.


Great summary of the upcoming rules. The FAA isn’t trying to be Orwellian on this, it is simply trying to balance the needs of a safe airspace system with development of drones. Pilots are trained to be accountable, a kid with an RC toy is not. The perspective of being actually in a flying machine vs playing with it is quite different. Most UAS operators, especially pros are responsible, and follow Section 333 guidelines, a kid or irresponsible adult with a new toy won’t necessarily be the same way.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to get the latest updates in your inbox.
Which categories are you interested in?
You’re now subscribed!