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Love drones? Don’t forget to register your UAVs before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) slaps you with hefty penalties. Starting December 21, 2015, the group requires all consumer quadcopters weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to be officially recorded before operation. If you’re getting one during Christmas, you may need to hold off a few days until you’ve gone through the tedious registration process.

According to the FAQ, there’s a tiny loophole in the system that allows you to hold off on the process until February 19, 2016. This regulation is only for people who have flown their devices before the mandatory registration date of December 21, 2015. The government site doesn’t elaborate too much on this; therefore, it sounds like you’d have a lot of explaining to do in the event you get questioned by authorities. Because registration is inevitable, there’s really no reason to wait until the last possible minute to comply with the new FAA rules.

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As a reminder, the FAA reiterated a set of best practices when flying drones:

  • Fly below 400 feet altitude.
  • Keep your unmanned aircraft in sight at all times.
  • Never fly near manned aircraft, especially near airports.
  • Never fly over groups of people, stadiums or sporting events.
  • Never fly near emergency response efforts.

How much does it cost to register a drone?

Registration costs $5 with a validity of three years. The same identification number (not the same as the “N-number” or “tail number”) can be applied to all drones and must be placed in a location that is easily accessible. Ideally, the site refers to a spot that can be exposed without the use of tools. The recommended area to stamp your UAV is inside the battery compartment. Also, don’t forget to remove the number if you’re giving your drone to a friend. Forgetting to do so could leave you liable for criminal acts made with the device.

What else do I need to know?

You can register your drone online, via the FAA website or through postal mail. If you want to get through the process as fast and painless as possible, the first option is the way to go. For now, only non-commercial drones within the weight range mentioned earlier can be registered on the site. The information you need for online registration includes the following: name, physical address, mailing address and email address.

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For non-recreational users, as well as for drones that exceed the standard weight range, registration must be completed via snail mail. In addition to the information above, you’ll have to provide the following data: make, model and serial number. The drone information only needs to be provided when the website has been updated for this type of registration.

After completing the process, the FAA will send you a certificate of registration to your registered email address. The website clearly states that you don’t have to have a print-out version around all the time. When asked for proof of registration, you can show an electronic copy from your mobile device. If you’re letting your friend borrow your drone, they would need to have a copy of the certificate to prevent confiscation and/or fines.

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