Hundreds of thousands of Americans who receive a drone for Christmas 2015 should register them almost immediately, FAA announced Dec. 14, 2015.

DOT Awaits Drone Registration Avalanche

The agency's proposed rule sets up an online registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, with free registration offered for the first 30 days.

Eleven days before Christmas, the Federal Aviation Administration posted its new proposed rule setting up an online registration system for small drones used for recreation. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx called the rule "a critical milestone" toward delivering a simple registration process for what the agency expects will be hundreds of thousands of new owners of these unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras.

"We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly."

The rule requires anyone who bought or has operated a small unmanned aircraft before Dec. 21, 2015, to register it by Feb. 19, 2016. Those who buy one after Dec. 21 must register it before their first outdoor flight. FAA and DOT stressed that registration is a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft. Drone owners using the online system must be at least 13 years of age to register.

FAA said the online registration system does not support registration of small drones used for any purpose except hobby or recreation – including drones used by a business. FAA said it is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring 2016. The registration system was created with assistance from a task force that included government stakeholders and representatives from across the aviation, technology, retail, and user communities.

Registration will be free for the first 30 days.

"Make no mistake: Unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility," Foxx said Dec. 14. "Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I'm excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation."

Registrants will need to provide their name, home address, and e-mail address. When someone has completed the registration process, the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the drone. FAA said owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will have to register only once and may use the same identification number for all of their drones; the registration is valid for three years. Although the normal registration fee is $5, FAA has waived it from Dec. 21 through Jan. 20, 2016, to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly.

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