If you own a drone that weighs between 0.55 and 55 pounds, and you plan to fly it outdoors, you need to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, as a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS).
Don’t worry though, registration is easy.
You’ll be required to submit your name, email address, physical address, and mailing address online, and pay $5.
- Visit the FAA’s sUAS Registration page
- Click ‘Register My Drone’
- Create an account with an email and secure password
- Activate your account by clicking on a link in the verification email
- Agree to the “Use Notice”
- Login with the new username and password you just created
- Enter your profile information, physical address, and mailing address
- Click ‘Proceed To Checkout’
- Read the safety guidelines, click the check box next to “I have read, understand and intend to follow the safety guidance.” and then click ‘Next’
- Enter your payment information and click ‘Next’
- Review your order, click the check box next to “I understand that, in accordance with federal law, I can be fined or imprisoned if I obtain a certificate by knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing a material fact, making a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement.” and then click ‘Pay’
On the confirmation screen you’ll see a message that says “Congratulations!” along with a Certificate of Aircraft Registration and Proof of Ownership, including a unique registration number that you must affix to any drone that you plan to fly. The registration number is valid for three years.
You can print your new registration certificate in case you want to keep a physical copy with your drone, and they email a copy to you for your records. There are also instructions for how to mark your drone with the new registration.
In case you’re wondering, the FAA’s safety guidelines for hobby drone use are:
- I will fly below 400 feet
- I will fly within visual line of sight
- I will be aware of FAA airspace requirements: faa.gov/go/uastfr
- I will not fly directly over people
- I will not fly over stadiums and sports events
- I will not fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
- I will not fly near aircraft, especially near airports
- I will not fly under the influence
“Registration is all about safety. It provides us with a key opportunity to educate the new generation of airspace users that as soon as they start flying outside, they’re pilots. There are safety implications to how they fly, and there are rules and regulations they must follow. When necessary, registration will help us track down people who operate unsafely.”
– Jim Peters, FAA Spokesperson
If you don’t register your drone, flying without registration can result in civil penalties up to $27,500, and criminal penalties up to $250,000 under 18 U.S.C. 3571. You can also be imprisoned for up to three years! (Though I’m assuming that’s a worst case scenario, like if you fly a 55 pound drone into the White House, or over Area 51…)
Once registered, you can use the FAA website to change or cancel your registration. For example, if you move or sell your drone, you’ll want to update your information to keep it current.
In addition, the sUAS Registration is only valid for hobbyist operation. Even if you register your drone, you still can’t fly commercially (anything you get paid to do) unless you have additional (and much harder to get) paperwork from the FAA.
So if you’re ready to make your drone flying legal, head over to the FAA and register your drone:
Does each drone need unique registration?
No! The good news is, you’re basically registering the pilot. Once you have a registration number, you can use the same number for an entire fleet of drones, and you still just need to pay for a single registration.
How long is the registration valid?
Registration is valid for three years from the date it is granted.
How much does registration cost?
$5, payable by credit or debit card.
Are there any requirements to register?
The person registering must be:
- 13 years of age or older. (If the owner is less than 13 years of age, a person 13 years of age or older must register the drone.)
- A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
What if I only plan to fly indoors?
Drone registration only applies to drones being flown outdoors. If you have a smaller drone that you only plan to fly indoors, or if you live in an aircraft hangar and only plan to fly around inside of your giant house, you don’t need to register it.
How do I mark my registration on the drone?
You can engrave the number on your drone, but you can also use a permanent label or even just write it on your drone with a marker if you want a less permanent solution. I recommend the less permanent options, since you’ll want to take the number off if you ever decide to sell the drone to someone else. The number must be visible from the outside, or you can mark the drone on the inside of the battery compartment as long as it doesn’t require a tool to open.
Can I register before I physically have the drone?
Yes, though the process is quick and easy, and your registration is valid immediately, so there’s no real need to do it ahead of time. However, if you are furiously refreshing the shipping status page of a recent order and just can’t wait, you can register ahead of time, since the registration number is tied to you the pilot, not the individual drone.