FAA Announces Recreational Drone Registration (Starting 12/21/15)

Note: On June 21st 2016, the FAA announced Part 107, a new drone certification process. Registering your drone is one part of this process. Please consult this guide for more information.

Well folks, it’s happening.

Starting Monday, 12/21/15, U.S. pilots are required to register their model aircraft (drones/multirotors/UAVs) with the FAA.

I hopped on a call with Jake Efstration over at DroneTech to chat about how this is all going to look. We’re steering clear of opinions, of which I have many, and just sticking to the facts.

Watch this video and comment below if you have any questions.

Some Key Points

  • You only need to register if your drone weighs between .55 pounds (or 250 grams) and 55 pounds. Basically, if you’re flying anything from DJI, 3DR, or Yuneec, you’ll need to register. Most likely, if you’re flying a drone that cost you less than $100, you won’t have to register.
  • Registration will happen online, at this link. Registration opens up Monday, 12/21/15.
  • You only need to register if you’re flying recreationally (for now). Commercial pilots / those who have gone or who are going through the 333 exemption process still need to go through the existing N-number registration and will be given access to the online registration process in the next few months.
  • Registration happens at the pilot level, not at the drone level. Meaning, if you have multiple models, you only need to register once.
  • This will cost $5 per registration, but that fee will be waived for the first 30 days (through January 21st 2016). You’ll still need a credit card to register, and you’ll need to be at least 13 years old.
  • Existing pilots who already own drones have a 60-day grace period (until February 21st 2016) to register.

There are a lot of other nuances here. I should state that I’m not a legal expert. The above video and bullet points are meant for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. If you have any legal questions, please contact the FAA or an attorney.

Also, here’s a link to the official FAQ page, and here’s a link to the full 200+ page interim ruling.

Alan Perlman

Founder at UAV Coach
Alan is an FAA-certified drone pilot and founded UAV Coach in 2014 to help connect drone enthusiasts, to provide world-class sUAS industry training courses, and to help push the drone community forward with a focus on safety and commercial opportunities.

  41 comments for “FAA Announces Recreational Drone Registration (Starting 12/21/15)

  1. Jeff
    December 15, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    That’s not accurate, according to manufacturer and shipping specs, I have to register my Aries Ethos FPV, JJRC H8D, Syma X5V-1 and my Mine Eagles Visitir 3.

    • December 15, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      What’s not accurate, Jeff? If those models weigh between .55 pounds (or 250 grams) and 55 pounds, then you’ll have to register.

      • Matt
        December 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm

        I believe he’s making the point that he paid less than $100 for each (which is obviously not the controlling factor, but putting that as a rule of thumb can be potentially misleading).

        • December 15, 2015 at 6:15 pm

          Ah, makes sense. That’s why I wrote “Most likely.” Would never say a statement like that as a strict rule of thumb. I myself have some sub-$100 drones laying around that I’ll need to register.

      • Joe
        December 15, 2015 at 6:20 pm

        I find it disturbing that you worded it “you HAVE to register your drone” vs “they WANT you to register your drone” I don’t think this is a drone community for me anymore if you’re just going to roll over and do everything they tell you.

        • December 15, 2015 at 6:45 pm

          Just reporting on the facts, Joe. Whether or not you choose to align yourself with the FAA is up to you. I’m not infusing any personal opinions into this news right now, at least until I’ve had more time to read through the full 200+ page ruling.

  2. December 15, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Nice. Thanks for taking the time to produce the vid.

    • December 15, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      You’re welcome, Bill!

  3. Joe Barrero
    December 15, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Alan. Next year when commercial registration will be available, it is supposed that trained pilots must operate small drones, like a phantom 3??

    • December 15, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Joe, you’re likely referring to the June 2016 deadline that the FAA announced to Congress over the summer. It’s not set in stone that new regulations will be pushed through then…it was just announced that the FAA was going to finalize the new regulations by June 2016. After the regulations are finalized, they’ll need to pass through other regulatory bodies. It might be a while before the 333 exemption process is updated. Long story short, if you look at the proposed rules that were published back in February, it’s looking like the traditional pilot license requirement will be nixed in favor of an multiple-choice aeronautical knowledge exam. But we’re all looking into a crystal ball here. Things could definitely change between now and then. Feel free to shoot me an email at alan@uavcoach.com if you want to chat more about this.

      • Joe Barrero
        December 15, 2015 at 9:25 pm

        Thank you Alan. Very clear your response.

        • December 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm

          You’re welcome, Joe. Thanks for your comment.

      • Darrel Cordle
        December 15, 2015 at 11:51 pm

        Hello, At the risk of sounding like a cry baby, I am complaining about the FAA reg requiring a pilots license to fly a UAV for hire. I have flown fixed wing UAVs for two aerospace engineering firms since 2003 one being aerospace engineering dept. at a university. I am a consultant/independent contractor, I am retired and found this as an excellent opportunity for a good part time income. I do not have a pilots license and really cannot afford to obtain one. I have flown many different types of rc aircraft for 43 yrs and have trained about 75 or 100 people to fly rc. It really makes no sense to only allow a full size pilot to fly a uav. Some licensed pilots are good rc pilots. As far as the ground school knowledge test goes, that is a farce also because you do not need to know 75% of that test to fly a uav. You need to know airspace class restrictions, how to talk to ATC, etc,etc, You do not need to know all the nav. aids or how to plot a cross country course. They need to simplify the requirements down to flying a uav. But I feel the FAA does not know what they are doing or simply do not care. Meanwhile I have lost my part time income to an elite few that are licensed pilots that really do not have that much experience flying uavs! I will be surprised if the FAA addresses this issue any time soon! Sorry to vent this way!

        • December 16, 2015 at 3:35 pm

          Don’t disagree with you, Darrel. We’re heading in the right direction with the regulations, just slower than anticipated.

  4. Jack
    December 15, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    The weight requirement is for the drone by itself, not the controller or FPV unit. The specs on a JJRC H8D, on BangGood, state the weight as 1167g. That would put this $100 drone weighing more than my AEE AP9 at 976g, which falls in the category to be registered. Best bet would be to weigh the drones individually if you have a question as to their weight.

    • December 15, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Yes, agreed Jack. Not all sub-$100 drones weigh less than 250 grams, but many of them do which is why I wrote “most likely” in that sentence.

    • Squelchtone
      December 27, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Jack: I too have been researching the JJRC H8D and I believe the weight of 1167 grams you are seeing at Banggood is the weight of the entire thing in a box, the package weight. I believe the craft weights 725 grams, not sure if that includes the battery or not. either way it looks like it goes over .5 pounds. I honestly don’t agree with the whole FAA registration of toy drones. I bet you’ll find a lot of back yard flyers who wont bother to register.

  5. December 15, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Seems pretty straight forward. Thanks for distilling it down for easy consumption. As long as I’m here, do you think the 333 Exemption as it is now is here to stay, or will that be overhauled/revisited at some point too?

  6. Frederick
    December 15, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for keeping us updated on this Alan.

    • December 15, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Your welcome, Frederick. Doing our best over here. Industry moving fast!

  7. CC
    December 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I have been looking for the weight of the U818A… and cannot find this information anywhere. How do I know if I need to register if this important information is so hard to find?

    • December 16, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      That model is under the .5 pound weight limit, Chris.

      • Chris Copeland
        December 16, 2015 at 3:32 pm

        Thanks. I couldn’t find the information anywhere.

        • December 16, 2015 at 3:40 pm

          You’re welcome, Chris.

  8. Chris
    December 15, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    So per the FAA FAQ on this, will we also need to register large kites?

    Q. What about tethered drones?
    A. Both tethered and untethered UAS must be registered.

    This comes in at 9.6 ounces, or 272 grams.
    So definitely over the 250 mark.

    • December 16, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Ha, that’s a good edge case.

  9. JT
    December 15, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Hey Alan

    I dont have any drones that weigh 250grams yet…. the MJX x600 is the closest at 198 with an 808 key chain cam

    my question is … when i get something like the cheerson cx-22 or the Yuncee q500 is there a grace period to register them or do I have to do it immediately? Also… can I get a registration number for future use since I dont have a qualifying drone now?


    • December 16, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Hi JT,

      No grace period. You’re expected to register prior to your first flight. If you feel like registering now preempitevely, I don’t see why that would be a problem! When you buy a model in the future, you’d log into their system and add it to your profile.

  10. Fred P.
    December 16, 2015 at 10:35 am


    As I have found out you provide the info and the direction. I say, “Good work”. It’s too bad that some simple thinkers just refuse to consider the implication that drones can cause as they start to proliferate the sky. There is a safety factor involved here not to mention the potential terrorist risk. I think they should license laser pointers as well.

    I have to assume that the same people who are against the registration process are the same that don’t want to register their semi-automatic weapon or wish to drive unlicensed vehicles. It’s more of the lack of education, not the abundance of, that is needed for these individuals. Perhaps these same people forgot 911 and the Boston Marathon!

    Regardless, thanks for the recent FAA information.

    • December 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      You’re welcome, Fred. LOL at registering laser pointers 🙂

  11. Mike Mallory
    December 16, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Thank You for taking the time to create this video I found it quite informative.

    • December 16, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      You’re welcome, Mike. Thanks for the comment

  12. Don Murray
    December 16, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    So who are the UAV police going to be.

    • December 17, 2015 at 10:06 am

      Yep, that’s one of the big questions with all this. How will it be enforced?

  13. Bill Leyrer
    December 17, 2015 at 12:56 pm


    What about RC airplanes like a P-51 Mustang or a Flyzone Sensei foamy??

    Will these need to be registered?

    Bill L.

    • December 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      Yep! Any model aircraft that fits the weight parameters.

  14. Joe Cicirello
    December 17, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Hello Alan, Thanks for making this video. I would like to get some clarification about the registration. When you register, are you actually registering yourself as an owner and pilot of a UAS and not the actual model that you have? You stated that when you register and you receive a new UAS then you need to go on the FAA website and add it to your account. Does that mean that you register once and just add your AUSs as you obtain new units? Thanks for your time.

    • December 18, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      Yes, that’s correct! Nice chatting with you on the phone earlier. Best of luck with everything, Joe.

      • Joe Cicirello
        December 18, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        Allen, I am commenting on your answer to my post here for I want everybody that reads this thread to understand without any doubt that you are truly dedicated to this emerging industry and those that are members of your blog. I can not thank you enough for the time you spent with me today concerning the new FAA registration and my future endeavors with UAVs as a business. Thanks for the website to assist with my research of which industry I want to focus on and the insight of your personal research.

        Many Thanks,


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