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Monday, December 21, 2015

Drone Registration for the Non-Hobbyist

The FAA’s recently published drone registration rule provides a few hints about what commercial drone applicants might expect in 2016.

The Dec. 16 Interim Final Rule most immediately applies to drone hobbyists operating under the “model aircraft” definition—aircraft used for non-commercial purposes and within visual line of sight. These applicants have been provided an online alternative to the paper-based aircraft registration system by way of a new 14 CFR Part 48. Every three years, they also will pay a $5 registration, which covers all of their drones.

For the would-be commercial drone operator, the registration process is notably different. Those applicants “intending to use the small unmanned aircraft other than as model aircraft” must follow a process similar to registering a manned aircraft. Starting Dec. 21, they must register each drone using the traditional paper-based process outlined in Part 47 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. They also must pay a $5 registration fee every three years per drone.

But in 2016, that process is expected to change slightly. Starting March 31, 2016, commercial applicants may begin using the Part 48 system to register online like their recreational counterparts.

Also, once the FAA finalizes its small UAS rule—expected sometime next spring—commercial applicants will no longer have to file for exemption under Section 333 of Public Law 112-95. The agency would not say if this would come with a change to the current registration fee.

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