FAA Requires Registration of Model Aircraft

The FAA has published a regulation effective December 21, 2015 that all UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) weighing more than 250 grams (about a half pound) up to 55 pounds must bear a registration number issued by the FAA if they are flown outdoors. This applies to models, drones, helicopters, gliders, etc.. The number must be “legible on close inspection.” It can be inside the UAS (such as in a battery compartment) if it’s accessible without tools.

Registration is via an Web-based system. The cost is $5 and you will have to renew the registration every three years. You will only need to furnish your name, physical address and an email address.  The FAA says registration will allow identification of UAS, create more accountability and will facilitate getting safety information to UAS operators.

Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. 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.

Owners who purchased their UAS prior to Dec. 21, 2015 will have 60 days to register. Presumably this applies to UAS you scratch build. If you move you’ll have to notify the FAA within 14 days of your new address.

You must be 13 years of age or older before you are permitted to register an unmanned aircraft. If the owner is less than 13 years of age, then a person who is at least 13 years of age must register the UAS. It appears that non-US citizens should register, however their registration certificate will serve as an “ownership certificate” as non-citizens can’t register an aircraft by law.  Federal law allows an individual citizen of another country who has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States under the regulations of the Department of Homeland Security to register an aircraft, including a UAS, with the FAA.

The same number can be used on all your UAS without limit on the number of UAS for non-commercial ie hobby use, aircraft used for commercial purposes must have a separate number for each aircraft. If you don’t have Internet access or a credit card, there will be a mail-in paper process.

The press release from the FAA about the registration process is at

There is a good set of FAQs at

The url for registration (starting Dec 21) is

The complete regulation and discussion (211 pages) is at

Santa Fe's Radio Controlled Aircraft Club