Fill out a Web form, get a registration number and mark
it on your drone. This was the verdict of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking
Committee, released today. The Task Force, formed by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of
Transportation last month, agreed on a simplistic approach in part because that was where the
confluence of agreement settled:
“Any registration steps more burdensome than these three simple steps may
jeopardize the likelihood of widespread adoption and would undermine the
overall registration philosophy that enabled the Task Force to come to
consensus,” its report said.
The Task Force was charged with three main objectives: identify which drones
need to be registered, how to register them and how to prove certification.
Members came together for three days in early November to hammer out the
recommendations. The report noted that three days wasn’t sufficient for the Task
Force to drill down into how to set up a drone registry and what impact it
would have on hobbyists.
Task Force members included Amazon, various pilots groups, robotics makers,
consumer electronics representatives and retailers, GoogleX, GoPro, surveyors,
the International Association of Police Chiefs and drone makers, including DJI
of Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, a “a
pioneer in the nascent market for commercial unmanned aircraft,”
according to The
DJI wasn’t all together pumped about drone registration in general.
“We share the concerns of many of
the 4,700 people who filed comments that this process was initiated in response
to sensational headlines rather than data-based risk assessments, and
contradicts the provisions of several federal statutes. Nonetheless, we
undertook in good faith the assignment, which was not to argue the law…,” DJI
said in a statement.
The Consumer Technology Association—known for 90 years as the Consumer
Electronics Association—tiptoed carefully between drone manufacturer agendas
and the public safety concerns driving drone registration:
“This is a crucial time for public policy concerning drones,” CTA said in a
statement. “For the U.S. to stay competitive, and for drone-related businesses
and startups to thrive, we need regulatory as well as non-regulatory solutions
that support both safety and innovation. Duplicative or conflicting
federal, state and local policies will encumber innovators, confuse the public
and limit growth.”
CTA said 400,000 consumer drones would be sold “this holiday season.” Registration
would apply to those with a maximum takeoff weight of between 250 grams and 55
pounds, and operated outdoors in National Airspace
The Task Force recommended that registration be free, or “$0.001” if the law
requies that the FAA charge. The registry system would pop out a
number that owners would mark or affix on their drones, similar FAA “N” numbers
for manned aircraft registered in the United States. A second option would be
to register the drone by its serial number.
The report includes two-and-a-half pages of math on the velocity, size and probability
of a drone falling on someone’s head and killing them. This is how the Task
Force concluded that drones 250 grams (a little over half a pound) or less
could be excluded from registration. The ground fatality probability of a drone
weighing roughly half a pound or less is one for every 20 million hours of
flight, or less than those for commercial and general aviation, the report
The group reached an uneasy concensus on the 250-gram threshold. Some felt
there should be no exemptions, while others said it would diminish the
credibiity of the effort to require registration of small drones “generally
considered to be in the ‘toy’ category.”
Other recommendations in the report cover what information to collect for registration,
drone types, citizenship status, proof of registration and age requirement. The
Task Force recommended that owners 13 or older would need to register, and
those under 13 would have to be supervised by an adult.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta thanked the Task Force members for their
contribution and said the FAA would take it from there.
“I will work with my
team at the FAA to review their recommendations, as well as public comments we
received, as we present the recommendations to Secretary [Anthony] Foxx. We will
work quickly and flexibly to move toward the next steps for registration,” he
See the full report here.