Do I need to register my drone before I fly?
If your drone weighs 0.55 lbs or more, you will need to register it, and yourself, with the FAA before you fly!
If you will be compensated for your flight, like selling your drone photos, you must register your drone under the Part 107 commercial drone system. Bottom line, you probably need to register your drone with the FAA before you fly in the United States. For other countries, check here.
In addition to drone registration, the FAA requires that you display your drone registration number on your craft, and that you receive authorization through LAANC before you fly in controlled airspace, which covers most of every city in the country. Chances are, if you want to fly a drone in the United States, you will have two or three things to do first.
Do I need a license to fly my drone?
For most countries, your need for a drone license depends on why you are flying. In the United States, if you will be paid to fly, or you will be otherwise compensated for any aspect of the flight, including selling your drone photos, or uploading your drone videos to YouTube with the Monetization tool turned on, you fall under the Part 107 regulations. You will need a drone license, we call it the Part 107 Certificate. If you are legitimately flying for fun, no license is currently required in the United States.
What do I do after I register my drone?
The process is fairly easy, you must be 13 or over and it will cost $5. From there, there are strict rules you will need to follow in the air, please read through and check them all out. I know some of them can be a hassle, depending on where you plan to fly, but the more we break the rules, the stricter they will become in the future. Help us all enjoy drones for years to come by enjoying them responsibly today.
For ease, here are the FAA rules for drone flights in the United States:
Important new information
Update May 2019: The FAA now requires all hobby pilots to acquire authorization before they can fly in controlled airspace. That means that if you are within a few miles of an airport, chances are you cannot just go outside and fly. You will need to consult an app like Airmap or the FAA’s own B4UFly to figure out your airspace requirements.
Important Update, Fall 2018: The government is revisiting funding and some bills that may change drone law in the United States. Some of the immediate changes may be to further restrict fun flight, hobby pilots may need to pursue further registration and more. On the commercial pilot end, not a whole lot is expected to change, specifically, but we may all need to prepare for advanced positioning and aircraft identification requirements. We hope there will not be much new to report soon, but we’ll revise this article as soon as we know what the changes are.
Previous update, from May 2017: The FAA had been blocked from requiring registration of your “Model Aircraft.” Model aircraft and hobbyist ‘drones‘ (sUAS – Small Unmanned Aerial Systems) had been considered different things in terms of registration, they’ve since adjusted the rules, and are further make changes in the beginning of 2020. Sadly, the changes on deck may cause grief to hobby pilots, with Remote ID requirements making model aircraft a non-viable hobby, and drone pilots needing to pass a knowledge test before they can fly. The FAA knows how to make rules for manned aircraft, those rules are bleeding over to hobby drones.
Update May 2018: Following an unofficial discussion with some folks from the FAA, the general consensus is that each and every one of us should look closer at obtaining the Part 107 drone certification. As it sits, the drone laws are fairly all or nothing on money – if you make money, or are compensated in any way for your drone flight or footage, that is a commercial operation. If you put your video on YouTube and make a few pennies worth of money from the ad system, that’s compensation for your flight. Win a cash prize at a drone race? You were just paid to fly.
With this info in hand, we will hurry up and produce more info about how to get certified yourself. Getting your Part 107 drone pilot license is fairly easy, we want to help you get there. Get started here: Drone Pilot Training.
Drone legal and safety
But, why do I need to register?
The FAA has taken a keen interest in anything that takes to the sky, obviously, and particularly those things that have the ability to cause harm to any other aircraft or to people and property below. Also things that can be used to violate one’s privacy or national security by way of taking inappropriate photos or videos from the air. In short, you may have the most innocent of intentions with your new toy, but flying in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen in an instant. The basic FAA registration includes guidelines to help prevent an incident.
In addition to providing basic guidelines for safety, let’s be honest, FAA registration is also for accountability. It can be difficult to track down the pilot of a drone, especially if it is laying in a broken pile in the grass outside The Whitehouse – a definite no-fly zone. The FAA is hoping to never have to hunt you down, but I hope you understand that your FAA registration number is just like the license plate on your car. Like it or not, accountability is important.
Fine, how do I register?
Luckily enough, the FAA has made is super easy to register to fly your drone. Visit their website, be at least 13 years of age, have a valid credit card and in a few minutes you’ll have what you need to fly legally in the United States.
Perfect, now I want to fly for work!
Hold on there, I am sorry to say, you cannot just fly your drone for pay. This one may be a sore spot for many, but the fact is, you need a special extra license to fly for pay. Again, you can drive your car with your normal driver’s license, but you need a special license to drive for hire, same idea.
For drones, it is called the Remote Pilot certificate with a sUAS rating, known commonly as the Part 107. It’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.
DJI has a new solution in mind
(Effective: Nov 2017)
Instead of registering your drone, how would you feel about passing a drone safety test before you fly? If you are on the latest firmware for your Mavic Pro or Spark, and have the latest DJI GO 4 app installed, you already know what I’m speaking of. While FAA registration is still not required, DJI has teamed up with the FAA to create a nine question quiz you need to pass before you can fly your drone.
The test is really easy if you know the rules:
Now go, fly safe
I hope this has helped, at least a little, but, basically, yes, you’re going to need to register your drone with the FAA to fly outside, in U.S. airspace.
Looking for more info on drone laws?
Meeting with DJI at CES 2020