How to Register a Drone

Drones were one of the hottest gifts this Christmas. But all drones over .55 pounds must be registered with the FAA. Failure to comply can mean up to $277,500 in fines and three years in jail.

The FAA has made drone registration easy and cheap. The fee is just $5. The deadline is 1/20/16. The $5 fee is even refundable for registrations made by midnight on January 20.

See below for drone registration cost, deadlines, how to and more.

How to Register a Drone

How to Register a Drone

The table below shows facts, cost, deadlines and penalties for drone registration.

Drone registration cost$5
Drone registration deadline1/20/2015Drones must be registered as of this date. Anyone who registers before this date gets the $5 registration fee refunded.
Do I have to register my drone?All drones over .55 pounds (250 grams) must be registered.
How to register a small droneDrones .55 pounds to 55 pounds can be registered online.See link below
How to register a large droneDrones over 55 pounds or used for business must be registered on paper.The paper process is more rigorous. See link below.
How long does drone registration last?3 Years
Penalty for not registering a droneCivil penalty: Up to $27,500. Criminal penalty: Up to $250,000 and 3 years in jail.
Why do I have to register my drone?SafetyThe U.S. government wants to be able to track drones to decrease terrorist threats and track incidents.
How long do I have to register my drone?After 1/20/15, all drones must be registered before being used outside.
What's a drone?A drone is any remote controlled aerial vehicle. That includes quadcopters, model helicopters, model airplanes, etc.Basically, anything remote controlled over .55 pounds must be registered.

Need a hint for why drone registration exists? The video below from June of 2015 shows a drone hitting a commercial aircraft and breaking a chunk off the wing. Note that an astute reader wrote in to say it’s a CG drone and a CG wing. In other words, not real. Since the guy has the same name as a visual effects producer on several big budget movies, we’re going to go ahead and take his word for it.

Also see: How to Get Your Money Back for a Hoverboard

How to Register a Small Drone (.55 lbs to 55 pounds)

All drones from just over half a pound (.55 pounds) on up must be registered. Drones from .55 pounds to 55 pounds can be registered using the FAA’s online form.

Register a Small Drone

Follow the steps below to register a small drone:

  1. Have the following ready: A debit or credit card, your email address, your mailing address.
  2. Go to the FAA’s drone registration page. (Click Here)
  3. Follow the instructions to create an account.
  4. Fill out the online form.
  5. The FAA website will give you a unique registration number. Display this number on the drone itself, either by a sticker, Sharpie or other method.

That’s it! The process is pretty simple. Drone users who register before midnight on 1/20/16 will have their $5 registration fee immediately refunded.

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How to Register a Large Drone (Over 55 Pounds or Used for Business)

How to Register a Large DroneDrones over 55 pounds, drones used for business, or drones used outside the country can’t be registered online. They have to be registered through a longer paper process. Follow the steps below for larger or commercial drone registration.

  1. Visit the FAA’s drone registration page.
  2. For new drones, click here to jump straight to the paper registration instructions on that page. The process is involved. Applicants must fill out three FAA application forms. In some cases a notarized statement has to be included. LLC applicants have to fill out an additional LLC sheet.
  3. For previously owned or used drones, click here and follow the instructions on the FAA drone registration page. The process is just as involved for new drones as it is for used ones.
  4. Mail in the completed forms and affidavits with the $5 registration fee. There’s no refund for early paper registration.

Paper applications can be mailed or shipped to:

FAA Aircraft Registration Branch, AFS-750
P.O. Box 25504
Registry Building Room 118
6425 South Denning
Oklahoma City, OK 73169-6937

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When Do I Have to Register My Drone?

Drone Registration DeadlineAll drones over .55 pounds have to be registered by 1/20/16. The $5 fee is waived for owners of small drones who register by midnight on that date.

The January 20 deadline holds for anyone who has a used drone or remote controlled airplane, helicopter or other UAV. For example, someone who’s had a gas powered model Cessna for ten years still has to register it by January 20.

People who buy or receive new drones as gifts after 1/20/16 have to register them before using them outside.

What’s the Fine if I Don’t Register My Drone?

The penalty for not registering is huge. The FAA can apply civil penalties of up to $27,500. On top of that, Criminal penalties can reach $250,000 and three years in jail.

Failure to Register DronePenalty Limit
Civil Penalty$27,500
Criminal Penalty$250,000
Jail TimeUp to 3 years

Also see: How to Save Money on New Video Games

Why Do I Have to Register My Drone?

Why Register DroneThe bottom line is safety. Drones have gone from non-existant to existing everywhere in an incredibly short time. Worries about terrorism, conflicts with private aircraft and commercial aircraft, and other conflicts make registration necessary.

The FAA wants to be able to track drone ownership in order to make handling legal conflicts easier. It’s the same way car registration helps keep things orderly after an accident and helps the police enforce the laws.

Not everyone agrees with drone registration. Some owners argue that the process restricts their freedoms. Everyone has to comply with it however or face the penalties.

For one reason the government wants drones registered, see the horrifying video below. The video has 29 million YouTube views.

What’s a Drone?

A drone is defined as anything remote controlled that flies. That includes anything tethered, non-tethered, electric, gas-powered or otherwise. If it flies and it weighs more than 250 grams (.55 pounds), it has to be registered.

The video below from the FAA explains drone registration and safety.