In the US, the department responsible for creating and enforcing rules and regulations for the use of aircraft of all kinds is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It provides guidelines about the registration and operation of different aircraft, including drones. Because it’s governed by a US department, you may be asking right now if you need to register your drone.
You need to register your drone whether you use your drone for commercial or recreational purposes. The only exception is for recreational users with a drone weighing less than 0.55 lbs.
Each drone type and purpose have its own rule including Part 107, Part 135, and Part 137.
If you’re looking for a clear explanation and comprehensive information about drone registration you’ve come to the right place.
Can You Fly a Drone Without Registering It?
You can fly some types of drones without registering them but it depends on the drone. According to the guidelines of the FAA, you must register all drones. However, if the drone is exclusively under the Exception for Recreational Flyers and weighs less than 250 grams or 0.55 pounds, it’s exempted from the registration requirement.
How do you know if your drone falls under the Exception for Recreational Flyers?
The FAA categorizes drones into two types, not based on model, or size of drone, but based on the purpose of use. These two categories are recreational and commercial. The recreational purpose has no profit gain. It’s only used for personal enjoyment or fun.
On the other hand, non-recreational drones include activities that gain profit to the owner. If you plan to use your drone to take photos to help a company sell a service or property, then it falls under the commercial, or non-recreational category. Even if you plan to offer your drone piloting skills to benefit a non-profit organization, it’s still considered a commercial use.
The only condition in which you don’t need to register your drone is if your drone weighs less than 0.55 lbs and you’re only using it for fun.
What if your drone is more than 0.55 lbs and you’re using it for recreational purposes, are you required to register it? Yes, anyone who owns a drone over 0.55 lbs that they fly for recreational purposes must register with the FAA.
How to Register Your Drone?
Registering your drone is fast and easy. You only need an email address, phone number, physical address, mailing address, the drone’s make and model, and a credit or debit card. You’ll only need the mailing address if your mailing address is different from your physical address.
But before you proceed to the registration, you must identify your flying mission. According to the FAA, there are three flying missions. It includes recreational flying, commercial operation, and public safety and government operation. In this post, I’ll focus only on recreational flying and commercial operation. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll assume that you’re not a part of the government or a public safety entity.
As just mentioned, when you go to register your drone, you can choose between recreational flying and commercial operation. If your purpose is for recreational flying, you can register your drone under the Exception for Recreational Flyers. But if you want to use it for commercial purposes, you need to register your drone under Part 107, and you also need to have a drone pilot’s license.
You need to be careful in choosing between the two types because one of them is not interchangeable with the other type. What do I mean by that? If you register your drone under Part 107, you can fly the drone both under Part 107 and for recreational purposes. However, if you register your drone under the Exception for Recreational Flyers, you cannot fly your drone under Part 107 operations.
Let’s assume you’re registering your drone as a recreational flyer, and walk through the simple step by step process.
- Go to the FAA DroneZone website and select the “register” button under the “I Fly Under the Exception for Recreational Flyers” section.
- You will be prompted to create an account, which requires a valid email address and creating a password. You must also be over 13 years of age to complete the registration.
- Once you create an account and login, you will be prompted to fill in information including your first and last name, your phone number, a physical mailing address, and a mailing address if different from your physical address.
- Click “checkout” to be taken to the payment page. (Note: If you’re registering as a Part 107 user, you will need to provide make and model information about each drone you will use for commercial purposes.)
- Provide your credit card information to complete the payment of $5. You will be assigned a unique registration number. Your registration is valid for 3 years, and will need to be renewed for an additional $5 every 3 years. The $5 fee includes all of the drones in your possession.
Think of your registration number not as your drone’s registration, but your registration number as a drone operator. The registration number you are assigned needs to be visibly displayed on each drone you own and fly. This means the same number goes on each drone.
The registration cost for Exception for Recreational Flyers is $5. It’s valid for three years. You’ll receive a registration number but you can only use it for recreational flying. You can also use the registration number on all the drones that you own. If you’re applying for Part 107, you need to pay $5 per drone. The registration is valid for three years.
If you decide to switch from one registration type to the other, you need to pay $5 to proceed to the registration.
Drone registration renewal
For registration renewal, log on to FAA’s DroneZone link. You can access the link using the email address you used when you registered the drone. In case you can’t access your account, you can reset the password using your email.
Exception for Recreational Flyers vs Part 107 Operations
If you’re confused about which category you need to register under, here are some of the things to consider.
One difference between the two types of registration determines how, when, and where the operations are allowed to be conducted. Basically, this means that there are operations in Part 107 that are not allowed if you register your drone under the Exception for Recreational Flyers.
Some of the operations allowed with a Part 107 license and registration that are not allowed for recreational users include operating within 5 miles of an airport in Class G airspace, external load operations, and transportation of property for compensation.
However, some operations are not covered in Part 107 that you might need on a specific mission. Some possible operations you might need include operation over people, operation in certain airspace, nighttime operations, and operation from a moving aircraft or a vehicle. If part of your mission falls in these operations, you need to acquire a waiver before you fly the mission.
Other operations that require a waiver include yielding the right of way, needing a visual observer, visual line of sight aircraft operation, operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft, and operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems.
Flying for the commercial purpose of package delivery or agricultural spraying falls under different regulations altogether. If you’re flying for a commercial purpose that involves package delivery, you must follow Part 135. If it involves agricultural spraying, you must follow Part 137.
What Happens if You Don’t Register Your Drone?
If you don’t register your drone, you may end up paying a fine of up to $27,500 for not registering. However, it’s not enough to simply register your drone, you must also be a responsible drone pilot. You must understand all of the Part 107 regulations for drone flying so you won’t receive a fine of up to $250,000 or up to three years imprisonment.
In fact, in December 2020, a drone pilot who violated different violations in Part 107 paid a fine of $182,000. According to the FAA, the drone pilot committed 12 violations over 26 flights the pilot conducted.
Some of the violations include flying at night, flying very close to buildings, flying over moving vehicles and people, and flying a drone commercially without a remote pilot certification.
Registering your drone and following the FAA rules will keep you, your drone and other bystanders safe. You must also remember other general rules when flying a drone.
The general rules include respecting privacy, flying at or below 400 feet, and keeping the drone within the line of sight. You must not fly your drone over stadiums full of people, public events, airports, other aircraft, emergencies, recovery efforts, or under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Another thing that you need to do each time you fly your drone is to bring your FAA registration certificate with you. It’s the certificate issued by the FAA after a successful registration. Always have it on hand if questioned, to avoid penalties. If another person operates your drone, you need to ensure that they have the certificate on hand. You can bring either a paper copy or a digital version. You must also show the certificate copy when a law enforcer asks you about it.
Which Drones Don’t Need to be Registered?
As mentioned, you don’t need to register a drone under 0.55 lbs used for recreational purposes only. However, if you have a doubt, you can call the FAA and ask about it. You can also use the website’s User Identification Tool.