I heard that my drone has to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). How do I check to see if I need to, and how do I register and get a drone flying license?
That’s a great question, actually, because the FAA has now made it essential that you have a drone flying license, or what they call an “unmanned aircraft system (UAS)” license, and it’s important to note that it’s you, the pilot and drone owner, who is licensed, not the individual drone. That way you can own more than one drone — heck, you can have a fleet! — and still only need the one license.
Further, some drones are exempt from the requirements, generally based on the size of the drone. If you have a tiny model that weighs less than about a half-pound, a little guy that fits in your hand, you don’t have to worry about the FAA regulations and licenses. On the other end, if your drone is more than 55 pounds then you’re beyond these particular FAA regulations and have to get a different kind of license (and you’re likely in the military in which case all bets are off anyway).
To start, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a good information page about UAS registration that starts with a big informational display on who needs to register. Start at www.faa.gov/uas/registration/
The criteria are neatly spelled out on the site, to reiterate what I wrote earlier (and my bad, it’s 0.55 lbs that’s the low end cutoff, so if your drone’s 0.05 pounds too heavy, well…). I like the illustrations too:
Need to register your drone? Okay, it’s going to cost you $5.00 USD, payable by credit card. Let’s proceed.
As a first step, you’ll need to set up an account on the FAA drone registration Web site. It looks like this:
Notice the minimum age requirement of 13. If you’re younger than 13 you’ll need an older sibling or parent to register on the site for you. Best not to stretch the truth on a government agency Web site, for sure!
Enter your email and a suitable password, then click “Create Account” and it’ll send you a verification email to ensure that’s really your email address and you have access to the inbox, as it explains:
In my case, it took less than 20 seconds for the message to arrive in my inbox with a verification link:
A click on the link and the account is verified and you’re ready to proceed.
Which means you’re ready to log in to your new FAA sUAS account:
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll just need to enter your address and payment information:
That s a lot of information, but you only have to enter it all once, so it’s not too onerous.
Enter your full name, phone (optional), and physical address, and note that you can’t use a Postal Box but need a proper street address, then click “Next”…
Now the most interesting step of the entire process, the full FAA Safety Guidance list for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) drones:
Good with all of that, including the “not fly under the influence” part?
Great! Click “Next” to proceed and you’ll be prompted to enter your payment information:
That really is the last step. Click on “Next” one more time and the next screen will show you your unique FAA sUAS registration number:
I have of course blurred out my own registration number, but you should definitely write yours down (though you’ll get a copy of the registration in email from the FAA too). Now it’s on you to write that registration number on any and all drones you fly that fit within the FAA criteria (0.55 lbs – 55 lbs).
That’s all there is. If you get additional drones or upgrade your drone, it’s your responsibility to add your registration to the new ones too, and in three years you’ll need to renew. Easy enough!