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FAA launches drone registry in time for holiday

Posted at 6:24 PM, Dec 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-21 21:08:40-05

Starting Monday, the FAA is requiring owners of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to register the aircraft if it weighs more than .55 pounds.

This, after industry group projected more 400,000 drone sales this holiday season.

"Every kid wants one. Every dad wants one. Moms, too," said Kerry Garrison, Chief Operating Officer of MultiCopter Warehouse in Castle Rock. "The vast majority of things people are going to find under their Christmas tree this year, though, are not going to need go through the registration process. It’s only once you break that half-pound mark."

The FAA now requires any unmanned aerial system weighing more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds to be registered on a site that just went live Monday.

The goal is to promote safe flying and hold drone operators accountable as the number of problems skyrocket.

Already this year, the FAA has logged more than one-thousand reports of unsafe drone use.

However, there are concerns that the name and addresses on the drone registry will be public.

"This is not a good thing from a security or privacy point of view," said Garrison. "Other people think it's just a money grab from the FAA, since it costs $5 or that the government may confiscate them."

Drone users are responsible for any damage or injuries their drone may cause, said Jeff Cozart, a professor with Metropolitan State University who specializes in drones.

"It's a balance; I understand the concerns on both sides," said Cozart. "Registration allows us to track down and hold accountable the person responsible.."

But people who already owned drones aren't required to register until February 19, and some industry groups are recommending owners wait because of possible legal action.

"It's a mess. It really is a mess right now," said Garrison.

The $5 fee for registry is being waived for the first next 30 days to encourage people to sign up, and penalties for not registering top out at a $250,000 fine and prison time.

These are drones that do and don't need to be registered.

Here are the requirements the FAA lists for operating a drone safely:

  • Fly below 400 feet altitude.
  • Keep your unmanned aircraft in sight at all times.
  • Never fly near manned aircraft, especially near airports.
  • Never fly over groups of people, stadiums or sporting events.
  • Never fly near emergency response efforts.