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Recently the FAA released some new regulations that require drone operators, including hobbyist, to register drones with the FAA.

As I am a novice in both aviation and legalese, can someone please break down the regulations and give me a guideline in layman's terms for whether or not I need to register a drone?

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I hear the American Model Association (AMA) is in the process of suing the FAA because Congress told them not to mess with models...which your drone probably is. – AaronD Jan 5 at 5:11
@fooot Okay. My point was the FAA has done something illegal in making this rule and so it may be struck down in court. The specific parties involved are of lesser significance. – AaronD Jan 5 at 18:25
@AaronD it is not illegal at the moment, and may never be. The legality of it is for the courts to decide. – David Grinberg Jan 5 at 18:29
@loneboat From my understanding its individual drones, same as how every airplane needs to be registered. – David Grinberg Jan 5 at 20:49
@DavidGrinberg: Hmmm, I interpreted it differently. I went to the registration site and registered. They issued me an ID number, and said the following: "Once you receive a registration number, you can use it on all of your unmanned aircraft if they meet the online registration criteria. You must mark the registration number on all aircraft you own." (from faa.gov/uas/registration ) Also note that they never once asked any specifics about a particular aircraft, only details about myself. My perception was that I was registering MYSELF, not specific aircraft. – loneboat Jan 6 at 15:31
up vote 24 down vote accepted


  • Your unmanned aircraft weighs between 250g and 25kg (including fuel and cargo),
  • You intend to operate it outdoors,
  • You are only operating it for hobby or recreation purposes, and
  • You are operating it in the United States,

you need to register your drone through the FAA's online registration system. If your drone is heavier than 25kg, or you are operating it for commercial purposes, you need to go through the regular aircraft registration process. If your drone is ligher than 250g, or you are only operating it indoors, you do not need to register it.

(Note: if you are younger than 13 years old, someone who is 13 or older needs to register your drone for you.)

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If I sell/transfer my drone, does it need to be re-registered? – David Grinberg Jan 5 at 1:28
According to the FAQ, yes. – Mark Jan 5 at 1:30
A note: Even the FAA says "register your drone" or words to that effect. You will receive a single ID number that you can attach to all your aircraft. It really is to identify you as the owner, and helps ensure you will operate it in a responsible manner. You will want to ensure you remove the number before transferring ownership. Others may fly your craft. Note that there are certain restrictions, like not flying within 5 miles of an airport. – Steve Jan 5 at 3:41
Although, I'm pretty sure my established flying club back in the 1990s was within a couple miles of Twin Oaks airport in Oregon. Nice runways, tables to work on planes, it was pretty nice. – Steve Jan 5 at 3:43
@Steve You can fly within 5 miles of an airport, but you must contact the tower prior to doing so. They might tell you "no,", but it's typically so they can inform aircraft operating nearby of the activity. – Tristan Jan 5 at 20:56

Well, everything in really basic terms can be found at the FAA Registration Site. Everything is there on that page.

Owners must register their UAS online if it meets the following guidelines:

  • Weighs more than 0.55 lbs. (250 g) and less than 55 lbs. (25 kg). Unmanned Aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs. cannot use this registration process and must register using the Aircraft Registry process.
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I would highly recommend following the AMA's guidance on this matter. They've been doing this for many years now with safety as their primary mission before the FAA decided to stick their heavy hand into the matter after the increasing popularity of quad-rotor models led to several regrettable high-profile incidents by new flyers.

As of today (1/5/2016) the AMA is currently in negotiations with the FAA to achieve at the very least an exemption for AMA members, and their current advice on the matter is

  • Don't register yet as the deadline has not passed and you are not breaking the law until it does.
  • Submit comments to the FAA expressing your opinion of the new legislation.
  • Additional information will no doubt be posted on their blog as the situation evolves.
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This hardly answers my question though, and when the deadline passes it wont answer it at all. I understand you may not agree with the regulations, but they exist and I'm asking under what conditions I need to follow them. – David Grinberg Jan 6 at 1:24
The real answer is that the current situation is in flux. You are NOT legally required to register any hobbyist models until February 19th, and whether you will be required to do so after then is at the moment is unclear one way or another. The legality of the new regulations is questioned on several fronts, not just by the AMA. It may not be an easy cut and dry answer as "you MUST register your drone if it is of such-and-such weight" but it most accurately reflects the reality of the current situation. – rushinge Jan 6 at 21:39

As long as your drone is not on the list, you are exempted, if you are really worried about your drone you might want to see the list here from this website http://smalldronesreview.com/2015/12/28/list-of-exempted-drones-for-registration-not-required/

But lately there are moves about abolishing the regulations on registration of drone, but if you have one especially large drones, just to be safe register it follow the law or be sorry

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