If you own, or are interested in purchasing a drone, you'll have to keep it grounded until you register it with the FAA. A task force made up of representatives from drone makers and government officials alike submitted a proposal a few weeks ago to the FAA, which has now congealed into a full-blown federal law that will go into effect beginning on December 21 of this year.
The law marks a big step in regulating consumer-grade drones, or small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), as the FAA refers to them, which has been a talking point surrounding the tech because of its surge in popularity and accessibility.
Registration is free until January 20, 2016, but will cost a flat fee of $5 afterward, which covers any number of UAS weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds in your possession. Renewal is required every three years and you'll also have to pay up another fiver.
Drone owners, or 'droners' as I like to call them, will need to write their unique FAA registration number on each of their drones for identification purposes. Additionally, proof of certification by either via paper print-out or digitally on a smartphone will be required, if requested.
Even with this law in place, a few things remain to be seen. First, it's unknown exactly how the law protects drone owners and their property from citizens who believe that they have the right to shoot them down. Flying an unregistered UAS subjects you to both civil and criminal penalties under US law, but I'm curious how the other side of the law will come down on those who shoot down registered UAS, those who shoot with the intent to defend their property's airspace.
But, but...what about Amazon?
With regard to commercial aircraft that will take to the skies in the coming year from the likes of Amazon and others, the law doesn't extend to those aircraft yet, but it will someday in the future. As seen on the FAA's frequently asked questions page, the administration states that "The new system does not yet support registration of small UAS used in connection with a business. It will in the future."
Though the law goes into effect on December 21st, current droners have until February 19, 2016 to register their UAS. Will this law impact how the rest of the world regulates drones in the airspace? We'll have to wait and see.
Bonus: People actually asked these questions
"Do I have to register a paper airplane, or a toy balloon or Frisbee?"
"If I'm just flying it for fun in my yard, do I have to register it?"
"How high is 400 feet?"