The registration deadline for hobbyists who already own drones is Feb. 19. Anyone buying a drone after Sunday will need to register before their first flight. Owners not in compliance risks thousands of dollars in fines. Extremely small drones — under less than 250 grams — are exempt.
Drone owners will start the process by entering an email address. They will then receive a verification email which will include a link back to the registration site. Next they will be asked for a name, mailing address and credit card to pay the $5 registration fee. Anyone registering before Jan. 21 will have the fee automatically refunded.
Once the process is complete the FAA will email drone owners a registration certificate. When flying a drone, the operator must be able to present this certificate, either in physical or electronic form. So having one’s smartphone present while using a drone will likely be easiest.
Drone owners will receive a registration number that they’ll have to mark on an easily accessible surface of their drone.
For now, only recreational users — not commercial users — will need to register on the site. The FAA says it is focusing on hobbyists first given the expectation that drones will be a popular gift this holiday season.
Eventually the site will offer a way to de-register a drone in the event it is sold to another person. The new owner will then have to re-register the drone.
Drone registration will be automatically renewed every three years, with owners being charged another $5 fee.
The FAA says there’s been discussion with manufacturers about finding ways to streamline the registration process through an app that can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet.