Drone Registration FAQ
- What is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS)?
An unmanned aircraft system is an unmanned aircraft and the equipment necessary for the safe and efficient operation of that aircraft. An unmanned aircraft is a component of a UAS. It is defined by statute as an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft (Public Law 112-95, Section 331(8)).
- Is a UAS the same as a model aircraft?
Congress defined a "model aircraft" as a UAS that meets all of the following:
- Is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere
- Is flown within visual line-of-sight of the person operating it
- Is flown for hobby or recreational purposes
- Is the Small UAS Rule effective?
Yes. The Small UAS Rule came into effect on August 29, 2016.
Flying for Work or Business (Non-Recreational)
- How can non-US citizens fly UAS for commercial purposes in the United States?
Non-U.S. citizens who want to fly for commercial purposes may do so under the Small UAS rule (Part 107) by getting a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC) issued by the FAA. The FAA does not currently recognize any foreign Remote Pilot Certificate or equivalent because globally-recognized RPC standards have not yet been developed. To obtain an FAA-issued RPC, they must submit an application for foreign air carrier economic licensing. Application instructions are specified in 14 C.F.R. Part 375 and should be submitted by electronic mail to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of International Aviation, Foreign Air Carrier Licensing Division. Additional information is available at https://cms.dot.gov/policy/aviation-policy/licensing/foreign-carriers.
- How do I fly a UAS for work or business purposes?
There are three ways to fly a UAS for work, business, or non-recreational reasons:
- Following the requirements in the Small UAS rule (Part 107)
- Following the rules in your Section 333 grant of exemption
- Obtain an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft
- I am part of a Federal/State/local government office – how can I fly a UAS to support a specific mission e.g. search and rescue?
You may either operate under the Part 107 rule, or you may be eligible to conduct public aircraft operations for which you would need to apply for a public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for certain operations.
- Can news media fly a UAS to shoot stories or cover breaking news?
Media companies may use a UAS, but must adhere to the requirements of their Section 333 grant of exemption or the Small UAS Rule (Part 107). Organizations may request a waiver under Part 107 to fly over people, and will need to provide sufficient mitigations to ensure public safety.
- What options do I have if my operation is not permitted under these rules (Part 107)?
If you are operating an unmanned aircraft that weighs less than 55 pounds, generally you may apply for a Part 107 waiver (special permission) to conduct your operation. Your waiver application must outline how you intend to safely conduct your proposed operation, including any additional risk mitigation strategies you may use.
- Is package delivery allowed under the small UAS rule (Part 107)?
Part 107 permits the transportation of property for compensation or hire, provided the operator complies with all the provisions of the rule, including that the operator must keep the UAS within his/her sight, the flight is conducted within visual line-of-sight and not from a moving vehicle, external loads must be securely attached and cannot adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft, and the aircraft with payload must weigh less than 55 lbs. at takeoff. The transportation must also occur wholly within the bounds of a state and may not involve transportation of property between: (1) Hawaii and another place in Hawaii through airspace outside of Hawaii; (2) the District of Columbia and another place in the District of Columbia; or (3) a territory or possession of the United States and another place in the same territory or possession.
Flying for Fun (Recreational or Hobby)
- What is the definition of recreational or hobby use of a UAS?
Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. In the FAA's Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms. UAS use for hobby is a "pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation." UAS use for recreation is "refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or division."
- Do I need permission from the FAA to fly a UAS for recreation or as a hobby?
There are two ways for recreational or hobby UAS fliers to operate in the National Airspace System in accordance with the law and/or FAA regulations. Each of the two options has specific requirements that the UAS operator must follow. The decision as to which option to follow is up to the individual operator.
- Option #1: Fly in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336). Under this rule, operators must:
- Fly for hobby or recreational purposes only
- Follow a community-based set of safety guidelines
- Fly the UAS within visual line-of-sight
- Give way to manned aircraft
- Provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport
- Fly UAS that weigh no more than 55 lbs. unless certified by a community-based organization
- Register the aircraft (UAS over 0.55 lbs. and less than 55 lbs. can be registered online; UAS 55 lbs. or greater must be registered through the paper-based process)
- Option #2: Fly in accordance with the FAA's Small UAS Rule (Part 107). This requires operators to:
- Obtain a remote pilot certificate or be under the direct supervision of someone who holds such a certificate.
- Register the aircraft as a non-modeler
- Follow all the operating rules in accordance with the regulation
- Option #1: Fly in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336). Under this rule, operators must:
- Does the new Small UAS Rule (part 107) apply to recreational UAS operations?
Part 107 does not apply to UAS flown strictly for fun (hobby or recreational purposes) as long as these unmanned aircraft are flown in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336 of P.L. 112-95). The small UAS rule codifies the provisions of section 336 in part 101 of the FAA's regulations, which will prohibit operating a UAS in manner that endangers the safety of the National Airspace System.
- Can I fly a model aircraft or UAS over a stadium or sporting events for hobby or recreation?
No. Federal law restricts UAS from flying at or below 3,000 AGL within a 3 nautical mile radius of any stadium with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people during a Major League Baseball (MLB), regular or post-season National Football League (NFL), or NCAA Division I football game, or major motor speedway event. This temporary flight restriction applies to the entire U.S. domestic National Airspace System, and takes effect starting one hour before the scheduled event time until one hour after the event concludes.
- Do I have to notify all airports within five miles of where I want to fly recreationally?
Yes, you must contact any airports (including heliports and sea-based airports) and air traffic control towers within five miles of your proposed area of operations if flying under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95, Section 336).
- Can an airport operator object to model aircraft flights near an airport?
Yes, an airport operator can object to the proposed use of a model aircraft within five miles of an airport if the proposed activity would endanger the safety of the airspace. However, the airport operator cannot prohibit or prevent the model aircraft operator from operating within five miles of the airport. Unsafe flying in spite of the objection of an airport operator may be evidence that the operator was endangering the safety of the National Airspace System. Additionally, the UAS operator must comply with any applicable airspace requirements.
- Why do I need to register my UAS?
Federal law requires that all aircraft (which includes UAS and radio/remote controlled aircraft) flown outdoors must be registered with the FAA and marked with a registration number. UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds may register online. The weight limit includes everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft at the time of takeoff.
- What is the difference between registering a UAS flown for fun vs. UAS flown for work or business?
If you fly your UAS for hobby or recreational purposes and you use the web-based registration process to register your aircraft, you only need to register once and then apply your registration number to as many UAS as you want. Recreational registrants only need to provide their name, address, and email address. The $5 registration fee covers all recreational UAS owned by the registrant.
Unmanned aircraft flown for work or business must be registered individually by the owner, and each registration costs $5. Registrants must supply their name, address, and email address, in addition to the make, model, and serial number (if available) for each UAS they want to fly.
Do I always have to have my Certificate of Aircraft Registration with me while flying my UAS?
Yes. You must have the FAA registration certificate in your possession when operating an unmanned aircraft. The certificate can be available either on paper or electronically.
If another person operates your UAS, they must have the UAS registration certificate in their possession. You can give them a paper copy or email a copy to them.
Federal law requires UAS operators to show the certificate of registration to any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer if asked. You can show it electronically or show the printed certificate.
If I'm just flying my UAS inside a building, or in my own yard, do I have to register it?
If you're flying indoors, you do not need to register your unmanned aircraft as the FAA does not regulate indoor UAS use. However, when flying in your own yard or over your own property, you will need to register your UAS if the UAS weighs more than 0.55 pounds.
- I'm a foreign national and want to fly my UAS in the U.S. on vacation. Do I have to register before flying?
If you are a foreign national and you are not eligible to register your sUAS in the United States there are two ways for you to operate. If you want to operate your UAS exclusively as model aircraft you must complete the steps in the web-based registration process and obtain a "recognition of ownership." This recognition of ownership is required by the Department of Transportation to operate a model aircraft in the United States. Alternatively, if you want to operate your UAS as a non-model aircraft you must register your UAS in the country in which you are eligible to register and obtain operating authority from the Department of Transportation.
- How do I mark my unmanned aircraft with my unique registration number?
If you complete registration using the web-based registration process and satisfy the registration requirements, you may use a permanent marker, label, or engraving, as long as the number remains affixed to the aircraft during routine handling and all operating conditions and is readily accessible and legible upon close visual inspection. The number may also be enclosed in a compartment that is readily accessible, such as a battery compartment.
- When I provide my registration information, is it publicly available?
The web-based UAS registration database is not searchable at this time. The FAA and the FAA contractor who maintain the website and database will be able to see the data that you enter. Like the FAA, the contractor is required to comply with strict legal requirements to protect the confidentiality of the personal data you provide. Under certain circumstances, law enforcement officers might also be able to see the data.
- Is there a penalty for failing to register?
Failure to register an unmanned aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal penalties. 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.
There is no one-size-fits-all enforcement action for violations. All aspects of a violation will be considered, along with mitigating and aggravating circumstances surrounding the violation. In general, the FAA will attempt to educate operators who fail to comply with registration requirements. However, fines will remain an option when egregious circumstances are present.
Accident and Incident Reporting
When do I need to report an accident?
The remote pilot in command of the small UAS is required to report an accident to the FAA within 10 days if it results in at least serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness, or if it causes damage to any property (other than the UAS) in excess of $500 to repair or replace the property (whichever is lower).
If someone's UAS crashes in my yard, hurts someone, or damages my property, what do I do?
Call local law enforcement. Law enforcement personnel will contact the FAA if the crash investigation requires FAA participation.
- What should I do if I see someone flying a drone in a reckless or irresponsible manner?
Flying a drone in a reckless manner is a violation of Federal law and FAA regulations and could result in civil fines or criminal action. If you see something that could endanger other aircraft or people on the ground, call local law enforcement.