The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has posted a rule in the Federal Register requiring small drone owners to display the FAA-issued registration number on an outside surface of the aircraft. Owners and operators may no longer place or write registration numbers in an interior compartment.
How Does this New Rule Differ From Previous Marking Requirements?
Commercial and recreational drone pilots have been required to mark their drones with an FAA-issued registration number since the FAA first began requiring registration of small drones in 2015. What differs with the new rule is the flexibility on where that number can be placed.
To grant flexibility to the diverse types of small drones available, the FAA previously permitted the registration ID number to be marked in an enclosed compartment, such as a battery case, if it could be accessed without the use of tools. All that mattered was that the registration number was readily accessible and maintained in a condition that is readable and legible upon close visual inspection.
However, law enforcement and security personnel expressed concern with the laxness of the previous marking rule. When responding to a threat involving a drone, the first thing law enforcement wants to do is identify the operator. One way to do that is to obtain the registration number of the drone. If the registration is in a closed compartment, it could delay important action by first responders.
Additionally, requiring first responders to physically handle a drone to obtain the registration number poses unnecessary risk, due to the potential for the drone to conceal an explosive device in an enclosed compartment (such as the battery compartment), designed to detonate upon opening. Law enforcement officials and the FAA’s interagency security partners have expressed concerns about the risk a concealed explosive device might pose to first responders upon opening a compartment to find a drone’s registration number.
The FAA believes that requiring drone operators to display their registration number on an external surface of the aircraft will enhance safety and security by allowing a person to view the unique identifier directly without handling the drone.
This new rule does not change the original acceptable methods of external marking, nor does it specify a particular external surface on which the registration number must be placed. The requirement is that it can be seen upon visual inspection of the aircraft’s exterior.
When Will The New Marking Rule Go Into Effect?
The deadline to mark your drone correctly, following the new rule, is February 25, 2019. The markings must be in place for any flight after that date.
Since this new rule is considered for “good cause,” the FAA is not required to give notice or accept comments prior to the issue of the final rule. The FAA has determined the importance of mitigating the risk to first responders outweighs the minimal inconvenience this change may impose on small drone owners, and justifies implementation without a prior public comment period. Therefore, drone operators are encouraged to adopt the new rule immediately.
The public is invited to make comments on the new rule, and the FAA may make amendments to the rule based on the comments received. The 30-day comment period will end March 15, 2019. To submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for “RIN 2120-AL32.”
How Do I Get My Drone Registration ID Number?
The new rule for marking your drone does not require you to get a new registration ID. You can continue to use the registration ID you already have.
However, if you do not have a registration ID, you can obtain one using the FAA’s web-based aircraft registration system, DroneZone. Follow these steps to register your drone and obtain a registration ID for your drone.
Official FAA registration lasts for three years and only requires a one-time, $5.00 fee for each drone every three years.
An Update on the New Rules for Flying at Night and Over People
Last month, the FAA proposed to make operations over people and at night legal, under certain circumstances, without a waiver. A draft of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was shared in an announcement by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on January 14, 2019.
In the announcement, it was stated that the proposed rules would eventually be opened up for a comment period, but it was not specified when this comment period would begin. Keeping their promise, yesterday the FAA posted the NPRM on the Federal Register, officially opening the comment period. The comment period will last for 60 days and end on April 15. To submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for “RIN 2120-AK85.”
Share your thoughts on the recent rulemaking activity from the FAA in this thread on our community forum.