In a much-anticipated announcement, the FAA on Monday morning revealed its preliminary plan to register drones sold in America, mostly to find out who is using unmanned aircraft and where they live in order to make sure they know drone flight rules.
Among the proposed requirements discussed at a telephone news conference: The government will collect the name and physical address of each drone owner and require each drone to display a "unique identifier," which is a registration number. These proposals would be applicable for unmanned aircraft that are less than 55 pounds.
The recommendations come from a 25-member panel of aviation experts, including drone manufacturers and airline pilots. FAA administrator Michael Huerta will have the final say on the recommendations. The FAA hopes to have the rules in place before Christmas.
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Drones, which often have four rotors and can be flown without much flight experience, have become hugely popular as they've become cheaper, suddenly popular as a way to easily shoot aerial video. An unmanned quadcopter recently landed unexpectedly on the White House lawn, though the Secret Service said it posed no threat; airlines have been reporting close calls between airplanes and drones, which are not allowed near flight paths.
Each drone pilot would only be required to register once, according to FAA executive Earl Lawrence. He or she could then use the single number assigned to all his or her drones. The FAA expects many drone manufacturers would paint a number on the side of a drone as its manufactured in order to make the process easier.
Lawrence was careful to point out the registration would be primarily focused on making sure new drone owners understood flight rules. "The objective here is safety and education," he said. The panel recommended the FAA provide registration for free.
Serial numbers will not be required, under the proposal. The FAA administrators point out most drone owners already put their name and address on their drones.
Federal transportation officials have said they hope to have a drone registry set up before the holidays, when, by some estimates, as many as 700,000 new unmanned aircraft will be purchased as gifts.
More information at www.faa.gov/uas/publications.