That’s right. The 21st December was the first day when you could, and have to officially register your drone, and we’re not talking about commercially used drones either. Here we are talking about any drone weighing between 25g and 25kg, or 0.55lbs and 55lbs in old money, which covers just about every drone you will find for sale online or in the mall.
And before you think that this registration is just a worthless piece of paper that nobody is going to check up on, think again. Under civil law, if caught flying a drone, even in your back yard, without a license, you could be fined up to $27,000, and that’s the good news. If you fly your drone and cause an accident or use it to break the law in any other way, you will be liable to criminal prosecution, where the fine jumps up to a more mouth-drying $250,000 and you could spend up to 3 years in jail. So, why the reason for the need for registration? The answer is simple, to make sure that drone users comply with safety rules and regulations surrounding the use of drones.
These rules have come about as a result of a number of ‘near misses’ reported between drones and commercial aircraft, and also to ensure public safety. Trust us when we say you wouldn’t want to be hit by a 10lb drone falling out of the sky from an altitude of 400 feet!
These rules are the result of collaboration between the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and a number of industry associations to create what is known as Know Before You Fly. The basic FAA rules below are for hobby and recreation use; these are separated out from drones flown for commercial purposes:
- Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
- Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
- Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
- Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
- Don’t fly near people or stadiums
- Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
- Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft
Unlike so many other rules and regulations, we reckon these are simply the application of common sense and are designed more to protect the public at large from the behaviour of those who prefer to abandon caution and see how far they can push a drone, especially near airports, and usually one with a camera attached. Between June and November 2014, 225 incidents between commercial aircraft and drones were reported in the US, of which 25 were classed as ‘near-miss collisions’.
Nobody should be left in any doubt that with an anticipated 1 million drones being sold in the run up to Christmas this year, regulation and registration is now essential. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the first convictions for failure to register drone, or how soon we can catch up with the UK who have just recently achieved their first successful prosecution. Nigel Wilson was convicted in September of persistently flying a drone over rowded football stadia and numerous popular landmarks in the capital city, London.