Leave it to the Federal Aviation Administration to complicate the holidays (or protect the skyways for Santa depending on your point of view) in regards to drones.
After much foot-dragging and delays, the FAA finally announced on Monday new rules for owners of drones, or if you prefer the term, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” that weigh between .55 pounds and 55 pounds. That covers most drones you can buy for recreational use and will probably have an impact on holiday shopping as sales estimates for the products were expected to reach as many as a million.
The new rules require aerial drone owners to register their aircraft starting on Dec. 21. The FAA will assess a $5 fee for this registration, but will refund that fee to those who register by Jan. 20, 2016. The registration process asks for a name, home address and email address, but the FAA doesn’t say whether you can register a cool callsign or drone name (my pick: “SKYBOSS7AIRBUZZ”) along with the other information.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who will speaking in March at South by Southwest Interactive, said in a statement, “Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”
Foxx also said, “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.”
The URL for registration is www.faa.gov/uas/registration/, but registration doesn’t start until Monday. Existing drone owners will have a grace period, but new drone owners (including those getting one as a holiday gift) are being asked to register before their first flight.
You can hear an audio segment I did with Texas Standard last week, a buying guide for drone shoppers.[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/236970113" params="visual=true&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height='166' iframe="true" /]