Reports: Department Of Transportation To Require All Drones Be Registered

from the permission-based-innovation dept

We’ve been waiting forever for the FAA to finally come up with some sort of rules around public drone use in the US. Earlier this month we noted that the FAA had simply ignored the mandated deadline to put rules in place. And in the few cases where the FAA has said stuff, it’s been ridiculous or just confusing.

However, reports are emerging that on Monday the Department of Transportation (which the FAA is a part of) will finally release some drone rules… and it’s going to include the requirement that all drone purchases be registered with the government. Apparently this is separate from the FAA’s rules, which still may not show up for a few years. While the details will matter, if the reports are accurate, that seems like a ridiculous, bureaucratic and cumbersome path to go down. While there are some fear mongering reports about errant drones flying in places they shouldn’t, the vast majority of private drone use is not at all problematic. Demanding registration for every single drone, even the personal hobbyist kind, would seem like massive overkill that would likely decrease the usefulness and innovation in a very important emerging field of innovation. Also, it’s not at all clear what this means for people who build their own drones (or want to).

At best, it will only serve to drive more of the best innovation out of the US, rather than enabling it to happen here. I’m sure, in typical regulator-think, the bureaucrats assume this is no big deal, because “it’s just a registration,” but it’s still a form of friction that makes it more difficult and annoying to own drones, at a time when the market and the uses of the devices is still growing. I have no problem with using the law to go after people who use drones for illegal purposes in some way, but a registration-first system seems to assume that many uses will be illegal, and if they aren’t now, it makes it much easier to criminalize lots of different uses.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Reports: Department Of Transportation To Require All Drones Be Registered”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anon Newcombe says:

No such a good idea

One of the key administrative challenges associated with this will be implementing a registration scheme. At present some of the top selling drones now retail for less that $1000 (Take the phantom 3 for example which is effectively a professional quality drone ) Thats not even touching on the huge number of decices that you can pick up from less than $100 at Walmart

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: No such a good idea

So, what counts as a drone?

Obviously a Predator or home-brew replica does, but what else does?

I saw a little smartphone-controlled toy, with no camera onboard, that you could hold 3 or 4 of in the palm of your hand — is that a drone?

What about the radio controlled air planes that have been around for decades? Drones or not?

Are Google’s self-driving cars drones? How about a model rocket that launches a free-falling or parachute-suspended camera?

If you put a telemetry pack on a weather balloon, is it a drone?

For that matter, is a paper airplane a drone?

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Time for my Eagle

Hope you don’t really have an eagle that way, seeing as it’s a federal felony…

Only without a permit. Those who have a permit and who practice Falconry can legally own and possess Eagles. Also, Native American tribes may legally possess Eagles.

It is entirely possible that Sampson has legal possession of an Eagle.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

What makes it a drone?

“but a registration-first system seems to assume that many uses will be illegal, and if they aren’t now, it makes it much easier to criminalize lots of different uses.

Is this really the reason for registrations? Guns, maybe. Cars, I think the excuses were different, something about accidents I think. Businesses, for taxes and fees and other things. Are they expecting a rash of smuggling? I know there have been a couple such instances but those might be controlled by defining a drone as one that has X lifting power, and beneath that is just another RC aircraft.

Now if the drones were to be used commercially, as in delivering things, I could see some reasoning, but for personal use? Are they looking for as new revenue stream from registration fees, or funding from congress because they will now need a whole new enforcement staff?

Set some simple rules for the recreational variety, not allowed 10 miles from an airport, not over 1000 feet above ground level, and expect it to get shot down if you fly it over your neighbor’s property, but is allowed over all parks and beaches. I think there are enough laws concerning harassment and stalking and noise to take care of most other issues. Or, whatever the current rules for RC aircraft are.

There is an ad running with a tiny ‘drone’ the size of two finger tips, not even sufficient space to write a regfistration number on it. Does that really need a registration? A good breeze and I think you would never see it again.

Or, they are paving the way to make commercial drone deliveries lagal, despite the FAA.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is hardly surprising.

Air space is regulated. Some zones have stringent requirements, others are essentially open.
Aircraft and motor-vehicles both need to be registered and are regulated.
Drivers and pilots both need to be licensed and require training.

Why do you think drones should be an exception?

In some countries (mine, NZ), you can operate smaller motorbikes (under 50cc IIRC) without a separate motorbike license. Perhaps something similar could be done with drones, where they’re split into different motor or weight-classes, but even so, we still register our motorbikes, and some form of licence is still required.

I’d also disagree with the idea that regulation necessarily means innovation will fail to happen in the US in the drone space as a result. Yes, it will be a barrier to some, however people still design, test and operate cars and aircraft in the US, no?

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why do you think drones should be an exception?

Offhand, I’d say because the perception of a threat related to these drones is just paranoia. It’s silly for the gov’t to want to regulate the things. As long as they stay away from aircraft and the White House lawn, they should be fine. Stray over private property and it’s toast. This is like regulating helium balloons which would be ridiculous. It’s not the sort of thing I’d want my government or regulators wasting time and effort on when they could be fixing far more worrying brokenness.

Daydream says:

What does 'registration' mean?

What does ‘registration’ actually mean in this case? Just so that we’re all on the same page?

I’m googling reasons for having car registration; among other things, it generates tax money, it helps to prove ownership of a car if it’s stolen, and the re-registration process can help enforce quality standards (replacing unroadworthy parts, faded numberplates, etc).

It seems to me like those are decent reasons to want drones registered; registration/re-registration of drones could make sure said drones meet quality standards, being flight-worthy and all, and also identify the true owner in case of drone hijacking.
…And also ensure that every drone has mandatory DRM or region-locking or whatever installed, judging by recent trends.

lfroen (profile) says:

Depends what "drone" is

Quadcopters that vast majority of people buy are not “drones”, they are RC toys, similar to RC trucks, which are also not registered (surprise!).

I think that whatever is allowed to fly over people head – must be registered, regularly inspected, people flying it certified and so on. Or, using car analogy: you don’t need driver license to use truck on your own yard, but you do on public road.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Depends what "drone" is

“I think that whatever is allowed to fly over people head – must be registered, regularly inspected, people flying it certified and so on.”

That is not the case in the United States, which has established a class of “ultralight” aircraft (essentially a motorized hang glider) which are exempt from any registration, license, inspection, or training requirements.

As other commenters have already stated, the government first needs to define exactly what constitutes a “drone” in the legal sense, since in common usage the term has been applied to everything from large pilotless aircraft to hummingbird-sized children’s toys. Currently, the FAA does not see any distinction. Just as there are defined legal classifications of manned aircraft, the same will eventually need to be developed for these new types of unmanned aircraft.

Also, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is bound to get involved at some point, especially since many of these toy-sized ‘drones’ have rigid, unshrouded propellers that could make nasty cuts on children.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Depends what "drone" is

“That is not the case in the United States,”

Wrong. Class B and Class C airspaces exist near most urban areas. So while ultralights don’t require registration, to fly “over peoples heads” they do require permission to even fly AT ALL in many of these areas. The fact that droneys are violating that air space (there ARE regs for unmanned aircraft, and have been for decades) is the reason why this is even an issue to begin with.

It is silly to complain about the FAA. More than likely the reason such a reg didn’t come out of the FAA directly, is because the FAA refused, rather than failed to act. (Like I said, unmanned aircraft are already regulated)

The FAA has got enough on their plate pushing tin. And generally it is one of the other departments that does the locking people up thing, even when crimes are aviation related. Further, the FAA is probably the most “do the math first” department, of all of the federal agencies. This is because people die when they get it wrong.

So first, spending a few benjamins at Toys R Us, doesn’t make you Buck sodding Rogers. Second, this problem is complex enough that it won’t fit on the lego pictograph that came with your new toy. Third, light aircraft windshields are not drone proof, and do we need to remind the droneys of U.S. Air 1549? The concern is legitimate. The FAA are the good guys when it comes to things like this, most of the time.

Droneys, please resist the urge to act like a spazz. Go visit your local EAA chapter, or flight school. Bring donuts, introduce yourself, and get enlightened.

Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Depends what "drone" is

To fly an ultralight in Class B, C, or D airspace requires permission, true. However, the surface areas of those airspaces aren’t very large. The surface area (that is, the area that extends down to the surface) of Class B, which is what surrounds the largest airports, has a (typical) radius of 5 nm. The surface area of Class C, and the entirety of Class D, has a (typical) radius of 4 nm. I’m focusing on the surface areas since the larger-radius areas start at 1200′ AGL, and ultralight operations are typically below this altitude.

In short, and very roughly speaking, this means that ultralights need prior permission to fly within 5 nautical miles of major airline hubs, and within 4 nautical miles of most other commercial airports. This isn’t really much of a restriction. In the vast majority of the country, ultralights can, in fact, fly right over peoples’ heads without any registration, licensing, testing, etc.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Depends what "drone" is

Droneys, please resist the urge to act like a spazz. Go visit your local EAA chapter, or flight school. Bring donuts, introduce yourself, and get enlightened.


Better go to your local AMA affiliated club (if in the US – here in the UK it’s BMFA). They know about RC model aircraft (“drone” just being a fashionable word used by those who have only become aware of these things recently). Fullsize pilots are often fairly ignorant of the ins and outs of RC operation.

Model aircraft have operated over the world with radio control for over 50 years without much in the way of problems with the fullsize. Negotiation over the years between FAA and AMA (BMFA and CAA in the UK) have resulted in sensible rules and conventions that avoid trouble.

Unfortunately recent low cost(Chinese) production and ill advised marketing has made the hobby (and some casual commercial applications) attractive/accessible to people who don’t see the need to make contact with existing, experienced, users. Consequently there have been a few incidents – but really – looked at rationally- nothing that ought to be really worrying.

Add into the mix Amazon’s downright ridiculous hyping of the “delivery drone” idea and a few politicians who think that some grandstanding in this space will help them and you get the current stupid storm in a teacup.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Depends what "drone" is

Great post.

There was a T.V. show with a bunch of gun bunnies weaponizing a consumer drone a while back. I’m sure the people that the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks, are all fanboys of that particular show. So my guess is that a lot of the paranoia behind this is coming out of the ATF.

Rather than registration, it would be more sensible to use the experimental aircraft 51% rule for unmanned aircraft over a certain gross weight limit. The RC guys wouldn’t really be effected since they build their own stuff anyway, and it would limit the amount of damage that NOOBs can do.

Mandating registration is just creating a law so they can go lock people up arbitrarily. And since the DOT has no way of tracking drone builders, that creates another excuse to implement more surveillance. Which is a good thing to do, if what your looking for is more people weaponizing drones.

So the DOT is creating jobs! For jailers, cops, gun manufacturers, drone manufacturers, mortuary attendants etc. It is part of that new “economic” plan. –sarcasm–

throwstonesatdrones (profile) says:

I have no idea is this will work.
Nor, it seems, does the government.
I’d suggest it was done simply to appear to be doing something.
But…how about regulations on delivery drones?
Amazon and Co have carved up our skies into layers to suit its hideous delivery drones.
Just wait till these loud, annoying, invasive, visually scarring robots are screeching over our homes and beautiful areas to deliver pizza and cola.
And, guess who is going to be on the committee deciding on the regs?
Yup, Amazon and Co!
A rock is the answer to this corporate takeover, thrown with accuracy and righteousness!
Please visit my facebook page, Throw Stones at Drones.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

They're banning our ... drones


“I have no problem with using the law to go after people who use drones for illegal purposes in some way, but a registration-first system seems to assume that many uses will be illegal, and if they aren’t now, it makes it much easier to criminalize lots of different uses.”

No offense, but you sound like the NRA.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: They're banning our ... drones

No offense, but you sound like the NRA.

As if small commercially available drones (AKA rc model aircraft) which have no practical offensive purpose and where the worst typical accident is something like this is even remotely comparable to guns – the main purpose of which is to injure or kill, where over 10,000 are killed one way or another each year in the US – including typically 100 children under the age of 15.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: They're banning our ... drones

We have licensing, inspections, training, laws on cars too, yet they kill as many people as guns do, and more than 2 million people per year are injured due to accidents from them vrs 75K non lethal injuries from guns.

If you consider that we have less cars per capita than guns, yet cars cause 26 times more injuries than guns, I would argue that cars are the real danger here. LETS BAN THEM!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!! /s

Paul says:

Ok its registered now what?

So the drone is registered. Doesn’t make it easier to identify to prevent the “bad operators”. Drones are so small that any registration number will be very difficult to view from the ground. Most drones look generic to the casual observer. If you are going to break the rules, you just tape over your registration & remove the tape upon landing. So how is this going to make the world safer? It’s not. It’s a step towards more government surveillance.

Once the government “realises” the drones can’t be identified they will require all GPS recorded flight paths to be submitted by the drone manufacturer, with the drone registration ID.

Noneya says:

Drones not the problem.

Now i have to find another hobby now the govt. Messed it up.
First it was that republican woman runnin for pres. She said something about not having a god giving right to have a job.
So i found another one that pays well but i would rather be in tech. Can’t even geocash cause u have to register. Now this.
Why would i defend against hackers if it means giving up my privacy for a low paying job.(lower than the pub sector).
You dumb ass govt. Types dont get it.
Our enemies will now make bombs for us to bomb themself with.
See shooting ones own foot for an example.
Just keep making stupid laws that dont do anything but piss people off that you would need(possibly better drone pilots) and see what happens.
Need hackers to save the govt…. To late we already shipped those jobs out. The rest had to train people that have h1b1 visa’s.
Keep shooting yourself in tbe foot, then cry and blame everybody else.
Rich people are not any better a piloting a drone than anybody else. They can pay the registration and fines for there stupidity better than me, and will not ever learn there lesson.

Anonymous Coward says:

You guys are missing the point of registration

The registration isn’t for identifying who has drowns. It isn’t even for finding who flew a drone into a plane. It is an attempt to stop terrorists. What they don’t seem to understand is that terrorists are criminals and criminals don’t care about laws. They will use drowns for nefarious purposes that are not registered. Once again, the honest citizen is being oppressed but the dishonest person has no bounds.

Just like piracy and movies. Pirates enjoy movies at any time, on any device at any place. The paying customer must watch when, where and how the movie studios prescribe.

Hum says:

There are just too many things wrong with this law

Like the commenter above me said; it is to stop terrorists. But let us imagine you are a terrorist. Then you probably know a thing or two about drones… Is it so hard to make your own drone and in this way bypass registration? And seriously since drones do not contain any hazardaus materials, it is really easy to traffic them through borders. So this will not stop the terrorists.

I simply think that will just make problems to the owners just own drones and quadcopters as a hobby. Seriously, most quadcopters, even those that you could deem dangerous (like with camera so that they could tape the thing that government does not want), are much cheaper than 1000$ for most models (look for example). So to make people register such cheap things… it is not really the wisest idea. I doubt it can work in practice. Are they going to restrict buying motors? I mean in the end, you can come to question what is the drone? Does it have to fly? Because in that case manufacturers could just remove the motor and you can order it seperately. Then you will just insert it in (can be easily insertable if it is made so).

What I am trying to say is that those things are cheap enough that it will only hit the hobbysts, while everyone who wants to hide their wrongdoings will still have the chance to do so. It is just to easy to bypass such a law. That is why I doubt it will be accepted. Just too much stupid things.

kj1313 says:

This isn’t about terrorism. They want to register drones because there are numerous instances of incursion of drones near active flight paths of commercial jetliners. Some asshat can’t keep their drones out of flight paths so the FAA rather burn the whole industry.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...