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It's Time to Register Your Drone. Here's What You Need to Know

By Nicole Levy | December 21, 2015 3:55pm
 If you want to fly your drone outside, you're going to have to register it online.
If you want to fly your drone outside, you're going to have to register it online.
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That drone you bought yourself for Christmas — you're going to have to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration.

A federal law effective as of Monday requires that hobbyist drone flyers add their devices to the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft System online registry, which goes live today. So far, the rule applies only to U.S. citizens who are 13 or older.

Here's what you need to know so you can fly drone in peace:

Why does the federal government want me to register my device?

"Registration helps us ensure safety—for you, others on the ground, and manned aircraft," the FAA says

And if you lose a registered drone (to a red-tailed hawk, perhaps), it's much more likely to be returned to you than an unregistered one.

My drone weighs less than 0.55 pounds. Does that really pose a safety risk?

You only need to register drones between 0.55 and 55 pounds. Anything lighter than that, the FAA considers a toy.

How much will registration cost me?

Registration is free until Jan. 21, but after that it will cost $5. You'll need to renew your registration every three years and pay $5 every time.

What information do I have to provide?

Your name, home address and email address.

What happens if I fly my drone outdoors before registering?

If you're caught without a FAA registration certificate — in print or electronic form — while flying your aircraft outdoors, you could end up paying as much as $27,500 in civil penalities and fines up to $250,000. You could also face up to three years in prison.  

What if I've already flown my drone outside?

You need to get it registered no later than February 19, 2016.

How long will it take me to get my registration certificate?

No time at all — you'll be able to download it as soon as your registration is complete. The FAA will also send your certificate to your email address immediately.

If I got my drone as a gift, do I still have to register it?

If the gift-giver didn't register it already, then yes.

What else do I need to do as a responsible drone owner?

You'll get a registration number when you complete your registration with the FAA and you'll need to mark your drone(s) with it before flying it.