Don’t Forget to Register Your New Drone with the FAA to Avoid Fines

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Did you get a new drone over the holidays? Make sure you register it with the FAA before flying it! In 2015, the FAA started requiring drone pilots—even hobbyists—to register their small unmanned aircrafts for $5. Additionally, the regulations had new guidelines and rules to keep hobbyist pilots out of restricted air space; and that required pilots to keep drones within their line of sight.

But in early 2017, all of  that changed when a court of appeals in Washington D.C. overturned the rule for violating the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The previous act approved by Congress stated that the FAA may not enact any rules or regulations in regards to model airplanes, which could apply to hobbyists’ drones.

Drone Registration Is Back

Now, earlier this month, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) played a part in reinstating registration requirements for drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds. Any remote controlled UAS (unmanned aircraft system; including drones) or flying device that fits within the parameters must be registered online with the FAA. As before, it costs $5 to register your drone and it must have the registration number or unique identifier somewhere on it (this includes being hidden in the battery compartment).

You May Need to Register Some Toys

The FAA says even children’s toys that meet the definition of a UAS must be registered if they weigh more than 0.55 pounds. However, they point out that this excludes paper airplanes and frisbees as they are not considered part of a UAS. The FAA defines a UAS as a device including “communication links and components that control the small unmanned aircraft along with all of the other elements needed to safely operate the drone.” They go on to say that “paper airplanes, toy balloons, frisbees, and similar items are not connected to such control system.”

Rules, Penalties, and Proof of Drone Registration

As part of registering, hobbyist pilots agree to fly below 400 feet, keep a visual line of sight at all times, and be aware of airspace requirements. Additionally pilots must not fly over people, stadiums or sports events, must not fly near airports or other aircraft, and must not fly under the influence.

Failing to register your aircraft can result up to $27,000 in civil charges or up to $250,000 in criminal charges; you could also face up to three years in jail.
In addition, pilots are required to have their FAA registration certificate in their possession while operating the UAS as proof of registration.


In short not much is different from the 2015 regulations. Here are a few things to remember before you fly your drone:

  • Register your drone(s) online with the FAA for a one time charge of $5. Even most toy drones may be required to be registered.
  • Put your unique identifier number on your drone(s). The FAA recommends etching the number or writing it with a sharpie; I prefer to use a label maker.
    • The number will be the same for all of your drones; you don’t need to register each UAS, just make sure each one is properly marked.
  • Keep your FAA registration certificate on your person while operating your drone.
  • Don’t fly your drone over people, stadiums, or sporting events.
  • Don’t fly your drone near other aircraft or airports.
  • Keep your drone below 400 feet and within your line of sight while flying.
  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

You can find a number of other FAQ and answers at

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