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Task Force Advises Weight, Age Limits on Drone Registry

The FAA task force charged with coming up with a system for registering unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, also known as drones)—they are employed in TV, film and live sports productions, among other uses—has submitted its recommendations and they include that it be free, owner-based (a single registration covers all relevant drones owned by that person), and that the smallest drones, and ones flown indoors, be exempt.

In coming up with its final registration plan, the FAA may incorporate all, some or none of the recommendations from the task force, which included pilot associations, retailers (Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon), UAS groups, tech companies, Google and others.

The task force recommended the registration be as follows:

1) "Fill out an electronic registration form through the web or through an application (app).

2) "Immediately receive an electronic certificate of registration and a personal universal registration number for use on all small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) owned by that person.

3) "Mark the registration number (or registered serial number) on all applicable sUAS prior to their operation in the NAS."

The task force said the three registration elements were linked and interdependent and presented them as "unified" recommendations. "Should the FAA find it necessary to significantly alter any element of its adopted registration system in a way that would contradict the findings and recommendations in this report, the members of the Task Force would respectfully request that the FAA reconvene the Task Force as soon as practicable," the task force said.

This would help to ensure complete industry and UAS community input into the registration system that is ultimately adopted by the agency. 

It recommended that UAS of 250 grams (a little over half a pound) or less should be exempt from registration. That was based on the probability of death or serious injury if a drone hit a person, not on collisions with aircraft (engine ingestion jets) or hitting propellers, for which there is not enough data, the task force said.

There is also a minimum age to register (13), which means no one under that age can operate a drone outdoors that weighs (craft and payload) over 250 grams. There is no citizenship requirement to register and operate a drone.

The Consumer Technology Association, which was a member of the task force, suggested the FAA is also warning those looking to get their hands on a drone to exercise caution if approached about paying a company to register their drones, saying there was already a company out there doing just that even before the registration report was even issued.

"We thank the FAA for creating a diverse stakeholder task force and appreciate the opportunity for the Consumer Technology Association [formerly the Consumer Electronics Association] and several of our members to serve on it. We applaud the spirit of collaboration and consensus-building that defines the task force and its set of recommendations to the FAA."

Separately, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration on Nov. 20 convened its fourth multistakeholder meeting to come up with best practices for drone privacy for commercial and noncommercial use of UAS.

The upshot was that they would try to combine two draft proposals into one and reconvene.