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Register That Drone You Got For Christmas

FAA Regulations require consumer drone operators to register their aircraft. (Getty Images)

FAA Regulations require consumer drone operators to register their aircraft. (Getty Images)

If you acquired a drone over the holiday season, be sure to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration in accordance with new regulations.

This week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a consumer alert regarding new requirements for the registration and regulation of drones, also known as small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).

One of the noteworthy requirements is that a drone “should not” be flown within five miles of an airport unless the control tower is notified in advance; pretty much all of Alameda, except the westernmost portion of Alameda Point, is within five miles of Oakland International Airport.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), effective December 21, 2015, drone operators who owned their drones prior to December 21 have until February 19, 2016 to register their drones with the FAA.

Those who purchased a drone on or after December 21 must register their drone prior to flying it outdoors.

There is a $5 registration fee. However, individuals who register their drone before January 20 will have this fee refunded.

These requirements apply to drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds, but drones under this weight requirement need not be registered.

Drone operators who fail to properly register their drone may be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

Complete details are available on the FAA registration website, but the attorney general highlighted several of the new regulations, reproduced below.

  • Drone registration should be completed online at when: 1) a drone weighs between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, 2) the drone is owned by an individual, and 3) the drone is used for recreation. Drones that weigh less than 0.55 pounds need not be registered with the FAA. The weight limit applies only to the flying portion of the drone.
  • Drone operators who owned their drones prior to December 21, 2015 have until February 19, 2016 to register their drones. Those who purchased a drone on or after December 21, 2015 must register their drones with the FAA before flying outdoors. The drone registration fee is $5. This fee will be credited back to those who register before midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on January 20, 2016.
  • Drone registration should be done by paper (rather than online) when a drone is greater than 55 pounds, when a drone is used for commercial purposes, or when a drone is used for reasons other than merely a hobby or recreation.
  • A drone operator should always have the FAA registration certificate available, either in print or electronically, when flying a drone. The registration certificate contains the FAA registration number, the registration’s expiration date, and the name of the drone certificate’s registrant.
  • Consumers who own multiple drones only need to register once with the FAA, and may use the same registration number on all of their drones. Drone operators should visibly and legibly place their unique registration number on their drones.
  • To register a drone, a person must be at least 13 years old (if a drone’s operator is younger than 13 years of age, a person 13 years of age or older – such as a parent – must register the drone). Additionally, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in order to receive a registration certificate from the FAA.
  • If a drone is not registered and is used outdoors, the FAA may impose penalties of up to $27,000. Criminal penalties for the failure to register a drone include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment.
  • A drone should be flown cautiously and safely. It should not be flown near crowds of people or stadiums. The FAA’s Advisory Circular on the use of model aircrafts may be found at, and it provides that operators should fly drones below 400 feet and within their vision.
  • A drone should not impede, and should make way for, any manned aircraft. Additionally, a drone should not be flown within 5 miles of an airport, unless the airport’s operator and control tower are contacted in advance. For a list of California airports, go to Consumers are also encouraged to review local ordinances that may be applicable to drone usage.

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