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Most drones must now be registered

KETCHIKAN (KDN) — If you or someone you know unwrapped the gift of a drone this holiday season, before you take it to the skies on its maiden flight, be sure you’ve registered your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration.

With the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 12, most drone owners are now required to register their unmanned aircraft systems.  Any drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must be registered.

According to the FAA, if someone meets the criteria to register an unmanned aircraft and they do not register, they will be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

Registration is not new to most current drone pilots. Since Dec. 2015, FAA began requiring drone registration. More than 300,000 drone owners signed up within the first month. Today, there are close to 1 million registered.

In May, model aircraft hobbyists, led by the Academy of Model Aircraft, fought the registration requirement and the associated fee, arguing the FAA had no jurisdiction over hobby aircraft and that registration through a community based safety program, such as the one that AMA has, is more effective than a mandated program by the federal government, according to the press release.

A drone owner went to court based on this premise and won. The FAA, however, continued to have concerns about aviation safety regarding drones and were able to include the mandatory registration for all drones and all user groups in the National Defense Authorization Act.

Now that the registration requirement is law, the FAA believes they will be better equipped to ensure that drones are operated safely, the press release states.

The cost is $5 to register a drone on the Small Unmanned Aircraft Registration Service website. If you own more than one drone, you only need to register once, but each drone must display a register number.