Does Your Drone Need Registering with Authorities?

Last updated January 22nd, 2020
A man signing paperwork

So, you’ve got a shiny new drone and you would like to know what the laws are concerning registration.

Do all drones need to be registered? Is your drone subject to being registered before you fly it? If so, how do you go about it?

These are questions which all drone owners, no matter where you are in the world, ask themselves when they get a new drone.

Fortunately, we are here to help clarify any doubts and keep you on the straight and narrow as far as drone registration laws are concerned.

We deal with drone regulations in the US, UK, and Australia, and you can simply seek out the region that applies to you as you read.

There are of course varying drone laws in other countries.

You should always be careful if you’re picking up a drone for traveling purposes as they may not always be legal to fly where you’re traveling to — you may not even get them through the airport in rare circumstances.

Do All Drones Need to Be Registered?

The answer to this depends on where you are:

Do Drones Need to Be Registered in the US?

If your drone weighs between 0.55 pounds (250g) and 55 pounds, then you need to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before flying it within US airspace.

Failure to comply with this requirement may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. None of the two are easy options you want to deal with.

The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500, while criminal penalties could include fines ranging up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.

In addition to registering your drone, the FAA requires that you label your drone with your registration number.

Registration costs just $5 per aircraft and is valid for the next 3 years, so it’s not exactly the biggest expense in the world.

In addition to registering your drone, you will need to watch where you fly them. You cannot fly your drone in controlled airspace without a Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) authorization.

Given that controlled airspace designates most of the country, you want to look into getting that LAANC authorization shortly after registering your drone.

You also need to have your FAA registration certificate on you whenever you fly your drone in the US.

Do Drones Need to Be Registered in the UK?

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) made some changes to drone registration requirements in November of 2019.

According to the new drone rules, anyone in the UK responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft (and this includes model aircrafts) which weighs between 250g and 20kg must register themselves as an operator.

Anything lighter than 250g, such as the sneaky 249g Mavic Mini, does not require registration.

The cost for this is £9, renewable every year.

In addition to that, anyone in the UK flying a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) which weighs between 250g and 20kg must sit for — and pass — an online education test. The test is free and will be renewable every three years.

Owners are required to register and label all their drones with a unique license number before these new laws take effect.

While certain exemptions are made for skilled pilots who have already been vetted by the CAA, failure to comply with these new registration rules comes with penalties.

Under the new regulations, if you are caught flying your drone without having registered the device, yourself, or taken the test, you could be issued a fine of up to £1,000.

Do Drones Need to Be Registered in Australia?

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is rolling out a new set of drone registration laws in order to cope with the high number of unregistered drones operating in the country.

The new regulations dictate that recreational drones will need to get registered when the rules kick in. This will be mandatory for all recreational drones that weigh more than 250g — the same weight limit as the US and the UK.

This is one notable change from the old regulations that did not require recreational drone users to register their drones.

Registration will be valid for 12 months and the registration fees may vary depending on how the drone operator intends to use their drone.

The rules for commercial drones are a little stricter.

All commercial drones (drones flown for work purposes or making money) will need to be registered, regardless of what they weigh.

Also, pilots operating model aircrafts at CASA-verified model airfields do not need to bother about registration if they only fly their aircraft at that field.

There are a few drones that are exceptions to these new rules and these include:

  • Drones that will be flown exclusively indoors. Those do not fall under CASA jurisdiction.
  • Drones that will never be flown at all.
  • Drones that weigh less than or equal to 250g AND are not being flown for or at work.

In addition to registering their drones, the new CASA rules will demand that pilots get accredited to show that they have mastered the drone safety rules.

Pilots who possess a remote safety license do not require to get a drone accreditation certificate.

These accreditation rules (and also the registration rules) will be binding even on those who fly drones over their own private property and those who fly under the “Sub 2kg” category.

The “Sub 2kg” category designates commercial pilots whose drones weigh less than 2kg (and were excluded under the old rules from getting a remote pilot license and remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate).

The accreditation certificate will be valid for 3 years and will be good for flying and supervising other pilots.

Pilots under the age of 16, for example, will need to be supervised by an accredited adult (18 years and above) at all times when they fly.

How Do I Register My Drone?

USA: FAA Registration

Drone pilots in the US need to provide the following information in order to register their drones:

  • A valid email address
  • Credit or debit card
  • Physical address and mailing address (if this happens to be different from the physical address)
  • The make and model of the unmanned aircraft vehicle

Rules for Recreational Drones and Model Airplane Organizations and Communities

If you are flying your drone recreationally, you must:

  • Register yourself as a “modeler”
  • Label your aircraft with your registration number

In order to register, you must be:

  • 13 years old minimum. For drone owners younger than 13, somebody else who is 13 or older must register the drone.
  • A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Foreign nationals visiting the US with their unmanned vehicles will have to register their drones upon arriving at the US. You can read more about the process for foreign nationals here.

To register, you will need the information mentioned in section above (email address, etc.).

If your drone weighs less than 55 pounds, you can complete the FAA registration process online.

Or you can register on paper, if you prefer.

UK: CAA Registration

Under the new regulations, drone pilots in the UK who operate drones that weigh between 250g and 20kg will need to get registered.

Registration will require the following:

  • Drone pilots must pass an online test to get a flyer ID in order to fly a drone in the UK.
  • Drone pilots must register for an operator ID, if they are responsible for a drone model or unmanned aerial vehicle.
  • Drone pilots must label any drones and aircrafts under their responsibility with their operator ID.

Flyer ID

Getting a flyer ID requires you to sit for and pass an online exam on theory covering flying legally and safely.

The test has 20 multiple choice questions and the minimum score to register a pass is 16. But don’t worry too much about failing; you can take the test as often as you need to register a pass mark.

As for preparing for the test, all the knowledge that you need for the exam can be found in a new Drone and Model Aircraft Code.

When you succeed in the test, you will be issued a flyer ID which will enable the CAA vouch for your capabilities as a remote pilot wherever you fly.

Minimum Age for Flyer ID

There is no legally enforced minimum age for registering as a drone pilot and registering your drone.

However, children younger than 13 can only register with a guardian or parent present.

Such a child would still need to pass the online test like every other person.

Operator ID

Anyone who is in responsible for or in charge of a UAV or model airplane is expected under the law to register as an operator.

After that, you get an operator ID along with a certificate of registration.

You have to display your operator ID on your UAVs–model aircrafts and drones. Using the same ID for all drones and model aircraft is allowed.

You must be at least 18 years of age to be a drone operator.

And all operator IDs are valid for one year.

Each applicant must pay a fee of £9

Registering Online and Offline

Applicants are able to register for and take the test online. An online link will be provided by the CAA.

Those who would prefer not to register online or those who are unable to will be able to use an offline service that will be made available.

Australia: CASA Registration

When Australia’s CASA rules kick in, drone pilots will need the following to register:

  • Pilots will need to be at least 16 years old.
  • Pilots will need to show proof of identification: Australian passport, Australian birth certificate, Australian citizenship certificate, foreign passport, Immigration documents.
  • Pilots will have to apply for an aviation reference number—this can be gotten for free online
  • Pilots will have to give the make, model, serial number, weight, and type of drone they operate.
  • Pilots will have to decide on a form of payment—either Visa, MasterCard, credit or debit card.

Accreditation

Under the new rules, pilots operating recreational drones that weigh more than 250g will need to be accredited to show that they understand the drone safety rules.

Accreditation will involve a short video, followed by a quiz to test the pilot’s knowledge. And all this can be completed online through the myCASA portal.

Accreditation will be free of charge and will be valid for the next three years, authorizing pilots to both fly and supervise other pilots.

Children younger than 16 will only allowed to fly under the supervision of an accredited adult (aged 18 or older).

Once you pass the quiz, you will automatically receive your accreditation certificate. You will be able to download and print it through the myCASA portal.

If you fail to register a pass, you will be allowed to keep trying till you pass. There will be no limit to how many times you can attempt the accreditation test.

Model plane pilots flying at CASA-approved model airfields, will not be required to get accredited if they stick to flying at only that approved field.

You will need the following to get accredited:

  • Be at least 16 years of age
  • Own a myCASA account
  • Render proof of identification: Australian passport, Australian birth certificate, Australian citizenship certificate, foreign passport, Immigration documents
  • Submit an aviation reference number—which you can get by applying online through your myCASA account.

Creating a myCASA Account

Creating a myCASA account will be central to the drone registration procedure in Australia. Opening an account is a simple process, requiring an email and creating a password.

How Much Does It Cost to Register a Drone?

The cost of registering a drone is pretty low, especially when compared with the penalties that come with flying without registering.

If you are in the US, registering a drone will cost you all of $5, renewable every 3 years.

In the UK, you fork out a whopping £9 annually.

While in Australia, drone registration fees will vary. It is expected that recreational drones will be registered at $20 while commercial drones may require anything from $100 to $160.

Is This Likely to Change?

The only thing guaranteed in the drone industry at this point is change — and the need for a good set of batteries.

As the industry changes you can expect regulations to change as legislators try to keep up for the safety of everybody involved.

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