Feds: 325K drones now registered

Greg Nash

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Monday that 325,000 drones have been registered thus far under new rules that require users to provide their information to the federal government and pay a fee to fly the devices.

The FAA said the number of drones that are registered now surpasses the number of airplanes that are on record with the federal government. 

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said he is encouraged by the response to the drone registration rules, which were implemented by the Transportation Department in December after an increase in the number of reported drone sightings by commercial airline pilots. 

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"The speed with which we were able to roll this out is a testament to the invaluable input we received from the diverse task force of stakeholders we brought together to work on this issue," he said in a speech at a drone policy summit in Washington on Monday.

"It’s proof that when government and industry partner, we can innovate, cut through red tape, and use technology to tackle emerging risks," he continued. 

The Department of Transportation began requiring drone users to register their devices in a new Web-based tracking system that went online on Dec. 21, 2015. Existing drone users have until Feb. 19 to register their devices with the federal government. 

The agency is imposing a $5 fee for drone registrations, over the objections of drone advocates, but the FAA provided refunds people who registered their drones within the first 30 days of the new requirement.

Huerta said Monday that the registration process for drones is straightforward and easy to complete.  

"Registration is simple – and it’s mandatory in order to fly aircraft that weigh between about 9 ounces and 55 pounds," he said.

"You enter basic information – name, address, and email address –  into our online system, and read and acknowledge our basic safety guidelines," Huerta continued. "Then you pay $5 and get a registration number that’s valid for all of your unmanned aircraft for three years." 

Drone users have complained about the fees, labeling them a "drone tax." A drone hobbyist in Silver Spring, Md., has sued the FAA over the rules, arguing the mandate violates a federal law prohibiting the FAA from regulating recreational drones.

The FAA has defended the legality of the system, saying the agency has the authority to regulate all "aircrafts" that are flown in the U.S. The agency has also said the drone registration fee is nominal.

Huerta said in his speech on Monday the registration system is necessary because of the increased use of recreational drones in the U.S. 

"Safety is at the heart of this new registration system," he said. "We need to bring unmanned aircraft enthusiasts into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American aviation."