If you’re the owner of a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) — more commonly known as a drone — you need to register the aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration soon or you could face some steep fines or even jail time.
The FAA says nearly 300,000 drone owners have successfully registered their UAS since Dec. 21, when the FAA’s registration rule first took effect. The FAA waived the $5 fee for those who registered on or before Jan. 21.
“The registration numbers we’re seeing so far are very encouraging,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “We’re working hard to build on this early momentum and ensure everyone understands the registration requirement.”
If you operated a drone weighing between 0.55 of a pound and 55 pounds before Dec. 21 — and you use it for hobby or recreational purposes — you are required to register the aircraft by Feb. 19. If you purchased a drone after Dec. 21, you are required to register it before you fly it outdoors.
If you don’t register your drone, the penalties could be steep. The FAA’s FAQ page says:
Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.
The FAA said requiring drones to be registered not only makes it easier to identify drone operators, but it also enables the agency to educate drone pilots on how to safely fly the aircraft.
“The National Airspace System is a great resource and all users of it, including UAS users, are responsible for keeping it safe,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
UAS operators are required to provide their name, physical address, email address and credit card information for paying a $5 fee. Drone operators are then given a registration number for their aircraft.
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