Some of the most popular holiday gifts this year will be drones, and with this new influx of machines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided it’s time to announce a new regulation. The FAA says that all drones within certain weight limits must be registered by February 19, 2016. Those who don’t register by that date and are caught using their drone in the air could face thousands of dollars in fines and potentially even jail time.
The registration process will be free for the first 30 days from the time the website launches. After the initial 30 days, drone owners will need to pay a $5 fee to get their three-year certificate of registration. The registration requirements will include the owner’s name, home address, and email address.
The FAA is making a wise move in announcing the new rule before the hundreds of thousands of drones expected to be purchased this holiday season take flight. That said, some worry how the agency will manage to keep up with regulating the fledgling industry. Unlike commercial drone operators, who must have a pilot license, recreational drones can be flown by almost anyone.
Drone accidents are becoming more and more common as recreational drone usage increases. Children have been maimed, and accidents have happened at the White House and the U.S. Open. It’s hard not to see some need for the unmanned flight devices (and their pilots) to be kept in check.
However, not everyone is happy about the new regulation, limited though it may seem. Some hobbyists are concerned that the weight requirement for drone registration is set too low, or that forcing people to register will decrease enthusiasm for flying drones as a safe hobby. Others feel that the new regulation is simply ineffective, and that increased education about how to safely fly drones would be a better avenue for time spent reining in hobbyists.
For now, it looks as though drone owners still have quite a bit of leeway in flying their favorite devices, since a little registration task doesn’t seem like too much of a hurdle. We’ll have to see how the rules continue to evolve in the coming years.
Image Credit: BORIS HORVAT / Staff via Getty Images
Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time, she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors. Follow her on Twitter: @stefanicox