New to drones and not sure what kind of a drone flyer you are,? Here’s what you need to know to get started with FAA drone registration.
How heavy is your drone?
Weight is the main factor in knowing whether or not you need to register your drone. Small drones, under 0.55 pounds or 250 grams, do not need to be registered. All drones over that weight, but below 55 pounds, always need to be registered.
If the drone is over 55 pounds, it’s considered commercial drones and are regulated separately. Those heavier commercial drones are beyond the scope of this guide.
Drone registration process
You’ll need to gather a few key pieces of information and a payment method for the drone registration process.
- Email address: You need a working email address that you check regularly to create your account and for communicating with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- Physical address: The registration form will ask for your mailing address.
- Make and model of your drone: This is to verify you’re registering under the correct category.
- Credit or debit card: The registration fee is $5 per drone and is valid for three (3) years.
- 13 years of age or older (if the owner is less than 13 years of age, a person 13 years of age or older must register the drone)
- A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
- For foreign operators, FAA will consider the certificate issued to be a recognition of ownership rather than a certificate of U.S. aircraft registration.
Once you fill out the required forms, you’ll receive an FAA registration certificate. Keep this with you whenever and wherever you fly your drone. You’ll also get a registration number. Write it on your drone either on a label, with permanent marker, or by engraving it somewhere that’s easily visible.
Are you flying for business or hobby?
- In addition to registering your drone, you need a separate drone operator license and obtain a remote pilot certificate if you plan to use it for commercial purposes. This includes making money with the drone directly (as a professional drone pilot) or indirectly (as part of your job). For the latter, an example is if you use your drone as part of your work as a surveyor or wedding photographer.
- These licenses aren’t difficult to get, though you will need to pass a multiple choice exam through the Federal Aviation Administration on drone regulations, safety guidelines, air traffic, weather, and the general use of drones.
- If your device weighs more than 0.55 pounds and is a recreational drone, you can register under the Exception for Recreational Flyers category at FAA.gov. This drone registration is for those who are strictly using theirs for recreational purposes and will never receive monetary or non-monetary compensation
Where will you fly?
- In addition to keeping the drone in your visual line of sight and below 400 feet, there are many other restrictionsfor where you can fly a drone, registered or not. This includes near airports, government buildings, and other controlled airspace. Check the B4UFLY app or UAS Facility Maps to find out where drone flight is legal. Flying your drone in restricted areas, even as a hobbyist, can result in criminal penalties.
- Registered or not, drones are restricted or forbidden in many national and state parks per state and federal laws. The reasons for this are varied, but they include noise complaints, safety issues, and fire prevention. The rules also aim to prohibit similar incidents caused by past inconsiderate drone pilots, including wildlife harassment and the destruction or defacing of monuments.
- If you’re not sure, you can always check the park’s website for more info. In some cases, you may just need prior approval to fly your small unmanned aircraft.
- If you’re traveling internationally, check local laws and also look into specific rules for your airline. Some countries ban drones outright, and most airlines have restrictions on where and how you can carry the batteries for a drone.