The first thing on the mind of every new drone owner is usually not of a legal nature. I wonder how high this thing can go? Do you think it’ll get to the park and back before the battery dies? I hope it can get that epic photo or video I’ve always dreamed of.
Before taking to the sky, I wonder how many new drone owners ask if they can fly legally, even in their own backyard? More important, I wonder if that drone owner in the United States knows that the FAA is in charge of these things? That in mind, the first question I hope every new drone owner asks themselves is, do I need to register my drone with the FAA?
The answer is yes, probably. There is a good chance that you need to register your drone with the FAA.
I don’t want to take up too much of your time, so let’s blow through this quickly:
- Do you live in the United States or plan to fly your drone in American airspace?
- Does your drone weigh more than 0.55 lbs total flight weight, including payload?
If you answered yes to both the above, you will need to register yourself and your drone with the FAA. Registration is $5 and is valid for 3 years.
But, why do I need to register?
The FAA has taken a keen interest in anything that takes to the sky, obviously, and particularly those things that have the ability to cause harm to any other aircraft or to people and property below. Also things that can be used to violate one’s privacy or national security by way of taking inappropriate photos or videos from the air. In short, you may have the most innocent of intentions with your new toy, but flying in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen in an instant. The basic FAA registration includes guidelines to help prevent an incident.
In addition to providing basic guidelines for safety, let’s be honest, FAA registration is also for accountability. It can be difficult to track down the pilot of a drone, especially if it is laying in a broken pile in the grass outside The Whitehouse – a definite no-fly zone. The FAA is hoping to never have to hunt you down, but I hope you understand that your FAA registration number is just like the license plate on your car. Like it or not, accountability is important.
Fine, how do I register?
Luckily enough, the FAA has made is super easy to register to fly your drone. Visit their website, be at least 13 years of age, have a valid credit card and in a few minutes you’ll have what you need to fly legally in the United States.
Perfect, now I want to fly for work!
Hold on there, I am sorry to say, you cannot just fly your drone for pay. This one may be a sore spot for many, but the fact is, you need a special extra license to fly for pay. Again, you can drive your car with your normal driver’s license, but you need a special license to drive for hire, same idea.
For drones, it is called the Remote Pilot certificate with an sUAS rating, known commonly as the Part 107.
We will explore the Part 107 more as we go, but for now, please just know that you must take some training and pass a test before you can fly for hire.
Now go, fly safe
I hope this has helped, at least a little. But, basically, yes, you’re going to need to register your drone with the FAA to fly outside, in U.S. airspace.