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FAA Imposes Registration Requirement

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaking at 10/19/15 DOT announcement of drone registration proceedings.
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Update:December 18, 2015:

The FAA did indeed issue new regulations for drone (UAS) registration on Monday Dec. 14. It is a rushed “interim final rule”, issued effective immediately, without advance notice/comment, but with a 30 day comment period starting after issuance.   It adopts some of the “task force” work done in November. It ignores other elements of that task force’s suggestions.

A page on the FAA website (https://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/) sets forth the proceeding, and has links to a page of FAQs on the rules, and includes a 211 page document that has a summary, detailed explanation, and the actual regulation, Part 48 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, and other changed regulations.

UAS registration online capability (at the above FAA page) is to go active on Dec.21. In short, for non-commercial users of drones (within a weight category of from .55 pound – about 8 oz. – to 55 pounds) , the rule specifies:

  • Only individual or recreational users who are U.S. citizens and at least 13 years old may register their sUAS using the web-based registration process. (A parent must register for users under age 13.)  All other operators, including business entities, must continue registering through the paper-based registration process set forth in part 47.
  • Owners who purchased the sUAS prior to December 21, 2015 will have 60 days to register.
  • Owners who purchase a sUAS on or after December 21, 2015 must register the sUAS prior to operating in the National Airspace System (NAS).
  • Online registration requires submission of the owners name, physical address, mailing address, and email address. The make, model, and serial number does not necessarily have to be provided.
  • Registration will cost $5 per owner, but is free until January 21, 2015. This grace period is calculated to encourage speedy registration of sUAS.
  • Registrations are good for 3-year cycles.
  • A number will be given to the owner/registrant, and that unique number must be marked on each sUAS operated by that owner in a readily accessible location.
  • Failure to register a sUAS may result in civil and/or criminal penalties. On the civil side, an operator could face up to $27,500 in penalties. Criminal penalties range from fines of up to $250,000 to imprisonment for up to three years.
  • Drones that weigh 250 grams or less, including the aircraft, payload, and any other associated weight, are exempt from registration.

For commercial users, there is little impact from these new rules.   Commercial users such as those who have filed for 333 exemptions to operate, and who have received, or may expect to receive FAA instructions to register their UAS, still must register their UAS aircraft under the Part 47 (paper) registration process. However, the FAA says that its web-based registration process may be available to commercial user registration after March 31, 2016.

There have been a number of questions raised about the FAA authority, process,  enforceability and technicalities regarding this registration requirement. It may change. It may be subject to a lawsuit.  So how it plays out should be followed closely.

Jonathan Rupprecht, an aviation attorney who handles a substantial amount of UAS work, finds a bunch of questionable regulatory practices and issues in this new regulation, and his analysis is here:

http://jrupprechtlaw.com/drone-law-blog

The Academy of Model Aeronautics is opposed to portions of the process and recommends delaying registration. That information is here:

http://amablog.modelaircraft.org/amagov/2015/12/17/hold-off-on-registering-model-aircraft/

Berl Brechner, December 18, 2015

Prior report, from 10/29/14…..

The Department of Transportation announced on Monday 10/19 that it intended to seek to have UASs, both newly sold and existing, some or all, go through a Federal registration process.  They might have to be registered at the point of sale, or perhaps before use.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the proposal at a press conference, flanked by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, and representatives from several organizations and businesses involved in aviation and UAS operations.  Foxx had hinted of the plan in an interview with CBS news the Friday before the announcement, but there otherwise had been no advance notice.

The DOT announcement can be found here:

https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-transportation-secretary-anthony-foxx-announces-unmanned-aircraft-registration

Answers to media questions at the conference were vague.  Enforcement procedures and penalties for non-registration are not set.  Whether the registration would apply to all drones, or some based on performance, weight, or technology is not known.  What the new process for registering UAS’s will be wasn’t known, but it would be “streamlined”, and likely online.  And the timeline for having this in place is not set, through Foxx indicated there was interest in having this process in place “before Christmas.”

Additionally, said Foxx, registration would be a good way to get to drone operators to “educate” them about drone safety and airspace use.   What the education would be, whether it would be voluntary or required, and who and how it would be provided were not known.

A “task force” of government and industry representatives is being formed, and is scheduled to report back its recommendations on drone registration procedures and policies by November 20.

On Tuesday morning, Oct. 20, official notice of the proposal went up on the  Federal Aviation Administrations regulatory docket, and is posted here:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FAA-2015-4378

This site allows public comment.  An FAA representative said on 10/21 that they’d like comments within 15 days, so the task force can assess them before it makes its recommendations.  This date clarification was posted by the FAA on 10/22:  “To assist the task force in developing its recommendations, the Department requests that comments in response to the request for information be submitted to docket FAA-2015-4378 at www.regulations.gov, by November 6, 2015. The docket will remain open after this time and the Department will consider all comments received in developing a registration process.”

What was not clear, also,  is how this affects commercial users, and particularly those granted Section 333 exemptions to operate their UAS commercially.  333 exemption holders are required to register their drones in the same fashion as aircraft registration, and get an “N-number” that must be applied to the aircraft.  At this time, there does not appear to be any change to that requirement, or the method of registration.

UPDATE:  The FAA published the list of drone registration task force members on 10/29.  It is here:   https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=84125

This report shows the participants to be:

Nancy Egan – 3D Robotics
Richard Hanson – Academy of Model Aeronautics
George Novak – Aerospace Industries Association
Chuck Hogeman and Randy Kenagy – Air Line Pilots Association
Jim Coon – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Sean Cassidy – Amazon Prime Air
Ben Gielow–Amazon Retail
Justin Towles – American Association of Airport Executives
Brian Wynne – Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Parker Brugge – Best Buy
Douglas Johnson – Consumer Electronics Association
Brendan Schulman – DJI
Paul Feldman – General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Dave Vos – GoogleX (Co-Chair)
Tony Bates – GoPro
Matt Zuccaro – Helicopter Association International
Mike Fergus – International Association of Chiefs of Police
John Perry – Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors
Brandon Declet – Measure
Randall Burdett – National Association of State Aviation Officials
Sarah Wolf – National Business Aviation Association
Baptiste Tripard – Parrot
Tyler Collins – PrecisionHawk
Gregory McNeal – Small UAV Coalition
Thomas Head – Walmart

Along with the FAA and DOT, the following federal agencies will provide expert support to the Task Force: Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior, Office of Management and Budget, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of State.

The task force is scheduled to meet Nov. 3-5

Berl Brechner, 10/21/15, updated 10/29/15