The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced a web-based aircraft registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) or drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds including payloads such as on-board cameras. The web-based registration system will be available starting December 21, 2015 at

Now, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to December 21, 2015, must register no later than February 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after December 21, 2015 must register before the first flight outdoors. Owners using the new web-based system must be at least 13 years old to register.

Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and an e-mail address. After registering, the system generates a certificate of aircraft registration/proof of ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft. (The FAA encourages owners to remove the registration number from the drone before selling it.) Operators must have a paper or electronic copy of the FAA registration certificate in their possession when operating the UAS. The registration is valid for three years, and the registration applies to all UAS owned by the registrant.

The failure to register may result in civil penalties 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 expects hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season. In an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA is waiving the normal $5 registration fee for the first 30 days (from December 21, 2015 to January 20, 2016).

The online registration system does not yet support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation – for example small UAS used in connection with a business. It will in the future. These users must continue to register using the paper-based process.

Please refer to for requirements pertaining to operating authorization or contact your lawyer at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP.

This publication does not constitute legal advice, and the reader should consult legal counsel to determine how this information applies to any specific situation.

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