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Focus on Regulation

FAA Task Force Recommends Sweeping UAS Registration Requirements

As previously reported here and here, a month ago on October 19, 2015, the Department of Transportation (DOT) created a registration task force (RTF) charged with making recommendations to the FAA on what mandatory registration of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including those used for recreational or hobby use, should look like. Today, the FAA publicly released the RTF’s much-anticipated final recommendations report.

Here are the key highlights from the RTF’s report to the FAA:

  • Perhaps most newsworthy is that registration under either the existing system or a new, alternative registration system would be required for all small UAS with a maximum takeoff weight of 250 grams (~½ pound) or more. Most vehicles capable of flying outside weigh at least this much.
  • An owner could register more than one UAS with the same registration number. Under the report’s recommendations, the new, alternative registration system would be electronic or app-based and provide the registrant with an immediate electronic certificate of registration and universal registration number that can be used on all UAS owned by the registrant.
  • Registrants would only be required to provide FAA with (1) their name and (2) physical street address. They’d have the option to also provide an email address, telephone number, and/or UAS serial number.
  • To encourage maximum participation, registration under the new system would be free.
  • Registrants could choose to affix their FAA-issued registration number to the UAS or they could rely on a manufacturer’s serial number that is already permanently affixed to the aircraft.
  • Any time a registered UAS is in operation, the operator of that UAS would be required to produce the certificate of registration for inspection.
  • Current commercial operators that have already registered their UAS using the existing paper-based aircraft registration system should not be required to re-register under the new, alternative registration system.
  • On a going-forward basis, commercial UAS operators should be permitted to use either the existing registration system or the new, alternative system.

It is important to note that these proposed registration requirements are only the task force’s recommendations to the FAA. The FAA will still need to review the recommendations and develop and issue a new rule before any new registration requirements take effect. While today’s announcement means the task force met Secretary Foxx’s goal of having recommendations by mid-November, it remains to be seen whether the FAA will meet the Secretary’s goal of having final registration rules in place by mid-December, when the agency expects up to 1 million UAS to be sold during the holiday season.