Clock Is Ticking On Free Drone Registrations

FAA says 181,000 drones have been registered ahead of January deadline.

Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Is the glass half full, or mostly empty on new-drone registration? That depends on your perspective. The Federal Aviation Administration rolled out a mandatory drone registry process on December 14 of last year. Although 181,000 registrations may sound like a lot, the  agency suggests some 700,000 drones were sold during the holidays. All drones weighing between .55 pounds and 55 pounds have to be registered.

When the January 20 deadline arrives, don’t think you’ll go to jail if you haven’t registered. Nevertheless, you probably shouldn’t fly an unregistered drone after that date.

Some bloggers suggest the low number of registrations is blowback against the FAA. A Maryland man is suing over what he calls a “drone tax”. We suspect that people who received drones over the holidays aren’t doing a lot of flying in the winter, so they’re being lax about registering them.

One thing the FAA is working on, too, is making in-app registration a lot easier through over-the-air patches that drone makers can send out. Yes, you can register on the FAA’s website, but making a default registration via app for any drone would up their take rate. The FAA also has a B4UFly app on Apple’s App store but you cannot register via the app, at least not yet.

Last week at CES, FAA Director Michael Huerta touted the number of people who had registered in less than a month, but it’s clear the agency has more work to do to streamline the process. Mind you, we’re totally in favor of the regs, for the same reason it’s a bad idea to drive if you don’t have a license. It’s just that the FAA and local governments are still grappling with how the process can work painlessly. Not registering your drone puts you at risk of up to $27,500 in civil fines, plus up to three years in jail and penalties that total up to $250,000.