Updated Apr 11, 2020
Registering your drone with the FAA is compulsory in the United States if it meets certain conditions - just like other aircraft that fly in the National Airspace System.
Here's a breakdown of what those registration requirements are, how to register your drone, how to mark your drone registration, and how to renew the registration.
Your drone must be registered with the FAA if it has a takeoff weight of 0.55 pounds (249.5 grams) or more. This applies to almost every flying camera out there.
The DJI Mavic Mini was specifically designed to evade this requirement, coming in with a takeoff weight of 249 grams. However, if you put anything on the Mavic Mini - propeller guards, a strobe, even a lens filter - you'll exceed that half a gram and need to register your Mavic Mini with the FAA.
Source: §48.15 - Requirement to Register
Minimum Age for Drone Registration
Even though all drones 0.55 pounds or more must be registered by their owner, you can only register if you're at least 13 years old.
So what do you do if you're under 13? You need to have someone who is at least 13 register your drone for you.
Registration does not indicate ownership; you're still the owner if you're under 13, but the person that registered the drone for you has taken registration responsibility.
Source: §48.25 - Applicants
Drones may not be registered in the United States if they're already registered in a foreign country.
Additionally, there are specific citizenship requirements for those wishing to register their drone:
- Must be a U.S. Citizen, or
- A lawfully-admitted Permanent Resident, or
- A company based in the U.S., operating in the U.S., and complying with U.S. law.
Steps to Register your Drone Online
Registering online is easy. It'll cost $5 (good for three years), so you'll need a credit card handy for payment. Also, be sure to have your drone serial number.
Source: §48.30 - Fees
Where's my drone serial number?
You'll often find it inside the battery compartment and sometimes on the arm too. This is what it looks like on the Mavic 2. The number is broken up into two lines to fit on the sticker.
Create an Account on the FAA DroneZone
Head over to the FAA DroneZone.
- If you're flying purely for recreational purposes, click "Register" under the Exception for Recreational Flyers.
- If you fly under Part 107 or are registering a Public Aircraft (law enforcement, SAR, etc.), click "Register" under the Part 107/Public Aircraft tab.
You'll be taken to a screen where you'll create an account with your email and set a password; verify your email when you're complete.
Registration requirements are more or less the same for both.
Finish your Profile after creating your account - you'll need to supply both a physical address and a mailing address.
You'll see "Manage sUAS Inventory" on your account dashboard. When you go in here, you'll click on "Add UAS."
The next screen that pops up will ask for your drone information - make, model, serial number, and nickname. Once you've entered all of that information, go back to your Dashboard and click on your Shopping Cart.
If all the information looks good, proceed to Checkout!
The FAA will provide you with a registration number once you've completed the payment. You'll also get a PDF certificate that you'll need to print out and keep with you while you're flying.
You can get this PDF certificate at any time by clicking on the registration number on your sUAS Inventory screen.
Marking your Drone Registration
You still can't fly your drone yet - you'll need to mark the registration number on it first.
The FAA says this must be "permanent" - it doesn't have to be so permanent that the number can never be removed. It just has to be permanent enough that there's no way it can come off in flight.
Where to Mark your Registration
The registration number must be marked on an external surface. It can't be inside of the battery compartment, for example. It also shouldn't be on the battery, since that's not "permanent" to the drone. The arms work well, or anywhere else on the fuselage where it will be visible.
How to Mark your Registration
Your options include a permanent marker, engraving, using a label maker, and heavy-duty tape. Do not use a dry-erase or wet-erase marker.
Keeping Up With your Drone Registration
So far, you've applied for registration, printed out your registration certificate, and marked your drone.
There are a few more housekeeping items for you while you own the drone.
Renewing your Drone Registration
You'll have to renew your drone registration every three years. You can do this by returning to the FAA DroneZone website. The renewal fee is the same five bucks.
If you Move
You'll need to update your registration information within 14 days of moving to a new physical or mailing address.
Just go to the FAA DroneZone website and update your profile information.
If the Drone is Sold or Decommissioned
Don't forget to cancel your registration if you sell the drone, or it's destroyed for any reason (let's hope that's not the case!).
You can do this at the FAA DroneZone under Manage sUAS Inventory. Click on the three dots next to your drone and select "Cancel."
If you have any questions about any of these, please don't hesitate to send me an email.
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