[Breaking News] FAA Opens Online Commercial sUAS Registration

It’s been a big week for the commercial sUAS industry here in the United States.

On Tuesday, the FAA doubled the “blanket” COA altitude from 200 feet to 400 feet, and just this morning, they’re now bringing the commercial aircraft registration process online.

Why is this a big deal?

Because up until today, sUAS pilots would use the FAA’s legacy Form 8050-1 registration process out of Oklahoma City, OK. They’d have to fill out a paper form, mail it in, and wait a few weeks to hear back.

That paper process still exists, but only if you’re required to do so under the following guidelines:

  • Your Aircraft weighs more than 55 lbs
  • You intend to operate your aircraft outside of the United States
  • Your aircraft is owned by a trustee
  • The aircraft owner uses a voting trust to meet U.S. Citizenship requirements
  • You are required by a Section 333 Exemption or a certificate of waiver or authorization

Meaning, for the vast majority of commercial sUAS pilots going through or planning to go through the Section 333 Exemption process, it’s now MUCH easier to register your aircraft.


faa commerial drone registration

Note: Those owners who already have registered in the legacy system do not have to re-register in the new system.

This is a huge step forward for the sUAS industry. Congratulations to the FAA for continuing to improve the regulatory environment. I look forward to more updates over the next few months.

I went ahead and included the full press release below, which you can also read here.

alan signature

Thursday, March 31 – Starting today, owners of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used for commercial, public and other non-model aircraft operations will be able to use the FAA’s new, streamlined, web-based registration process to register their aircraft. The web-based process will significantly speed up registration for a variety of commercial, public use and other users. Registration for those users is $5, the same low fee that model aircraft owners pay.

“Registration is an important tool to help us educate aircraft owners and safely integrate this exciting new technology into the same airspace as other aircraft operations,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

All owners of small UAS used for purposes other than as model aircraft must currently obtain a 333 exemption, a public certificate of authorization or other FAA authorization to legally operate, in addition to registering their aircraft. Before today, the FAA required all non-hobby unmanned aircraft owners to register their aircraft with the FAA’s legacy aircraft registry in Oklahoma City, OK.

Those owners who already have registered in the legacy system do not have to re-register in the new system. However, the FAA is encouraging new owners who are registering for the first time to use the new, web-based registration system. Owners who register under the new system can easily access the records for all of the aircraft they have registered by logging into their on-line account. Small UAS owners who have registered under the web-based system who intend to use their aircraft for purposes other than as model aircraft will also need to re-register to provide aircraft specific information.

The FAA first opened up the web-based registration for model unmanned aircraft owners on Dec. 21, 2015. The agency is expanding that existing website to accommodate owners of aircraft used for purposes other than model aircraft. This registration process includes additional information on the manufacturer, model and serial number, in addition to the owner’s physical and email addresses. Like the model aircraft registration process, a certificate is good for three years, but each certificate covers only one aircraft.

Register here.

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.

  25 comments for “[Breaking News] FAA Opens Online Commercial sUAS Registration

  1. Mark B
    March 31, 2016 at 11:44 am

    SO does this mean we no longer need to wait for the 333 exemption process to enable commercial drone use? I’m still waiting on my 333 exemption!

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      No, that’s not what this means. Aspiring commercial sUAS pilots / companies still need to go through the entire Section 333 Exemption process. Once you have the exemption, there are 30+ guidelines you need to follow. Commercial aircraft registration is simply one of these requirements, and the news this morning makes this one requirement a lot easier to navigate. Simply registering your aircraft commercially does NOT make you a commercial sUAS pilot if you do not have the Section 333 Exemption. Hope that helps to clarify.

      • Mark B
        March 31, 2016 at 3:26 pm

        That makes sense now…thank you!

  2. Joseph Peed
    March 31, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Man, I just sent off my 8050-1 form and N-number stuff Monday. Is there any benefit of me doing the online registration? I did the hobby registration already in December, but I want to fly commercially. I am waiting on my approval for my 333 now as well which was sent beginning of February. Is there any way to fly commercially legally now with this new registration? Realestate, Weddings, Travel stock footage?

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Joseph, because you’re still waiting to receive your Section 333 Exemption, there’s no need to rush the commercial aircraft registration. If you’ve already sent in your forms, then I’d wait it out! To answer your second question, this update to the registration does NOT change the overall timeline / process to operate commercially, legally.

  3. Ben
    March 31, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Great to hear! Finally getting some processes in place that make things easier. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for this industry.

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Yep, we’re pretty excited about it over here as well. Thanks for the comment, Ben.

  4. March 31, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    I am assuming (since I don’t see it specified) that current “333” holders, with “N” number (legacy registered) aircrafts, who wish to add an additional aircraft to their fleet, can use the new web-based system?

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Yes, that’s correct. Good point, Martin.

  5. Ricardo Cheing
    March 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    This is great news! How about if you are still pending for your 333 Exemption and you know that you will be required to register the aircraft for commercial purposes? Do you wait for the 333 to be approved or do you just go ahead and register the aircraft since you will have to do it anyway? At the moment, mine is still registered as a model aircraft, but I know this will change with the 333 Exemption.

    Thanks in advance.

    Ricardo Cheing

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Ricardo, up to you. You can go ahead and register your aircraft commercially now, while you still wait for your Section 333 Exemption to arrive. You can also wait until you have the exemption to do so.

  6. March 31, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Maybe you can shed some light on this as it’s slightly confusing. The FAA still requires you to get a 333 exemption for commercial use, but you can register using the new system to use you sUAS for purposes other than recreational.

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Douglas, yes. Aspiring commercial sUAS pilots / companies still need to go through the entire Section 333 Exemption process. Once you have the exemption, there are 30+ guidelines you need to follow. Commercial aircraft registration is simply one of these requirements, and the news this morning makes this one requirement a lot easier to navigate. Simply registering your aircraft commercially does NOT make you a commercial sUAS pilot if you do not have the Section 333 Exemption. Hope that helps to clarify.

      • March 31, 2016 at 3:43 pm

        Thank you, Alan. That’s what I figured, however it doesn’t hurt to get someone such as yourself with their pulse on the situation to provide a little clarity. Thanks for all you do, and keep the news letters coming.

  7. Michael
    March 31, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Do you need a pilots license to operate a drone for business use, or just the exemption?

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      If you’re the pilot-in-command (PIC), then yes. You need a traditional manned aircraft pilot license (sport, recreational, private, commercial, etc.) More information here: http://uavcoach.com/drone-certification

      On that point, what really bothers me about the Section 333 Exemption process is that the majority of people I speak with think that, once you have the exemption, it’s carte blanche to operate commercially. NOT TRUE. There are 30+ specific guidelines you need to follow to comply with the regulations. The pilot license. The commercial registration. Monthly reporting to the FAA. Knowing to operate daytime only, visual line of sight. And so on. If anyone is reading this and has questions about those guidelines, PLEASE don’t hesitate to reach out to us at support@uavcoach.com. Happy to walk you through them.

      • Michael
        April 3, 2016 at 3:36 pm

        Thanks for the reply would this also include flying on clients personal property for reality or survey?

  8. March 31, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Very Good News Alan! I’m glad to see this has been implemented on their website, as trying to wade & read thru all the steps was a little daunting and had me scratching my head the very first time I had to go there to complete the registration steps… It’s good to know that everyone will now hopefully have a much easier time getting their registration done now!

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      Two thumbs up over here. Thanks for the comment, Rob 🙂

  9. March 31, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Hello Alan,
    Just to make sure I am understanding everything correctly please: I bought a Phantom 3 Professional last year and have been learning to fly it. When the regulations came out regarding having to register as a hobby-flyer, I registered and put that number on my drone as required. I plan to use it commercially too and have been gathering information to apply for the 333 exemption. I’m assuming that now, as part of this process, I must register my drone again under the “Non-Model Aircraft … for commercial purposes” and put the number I receive there on it too? I use it for personal use at present and, once I get the 333, hopefully for commercial use as well, (I am already a licensed pilot).

    • March 31, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Hi Alan, thanks for the comment. You’re mostly correct. You’ll only need to register your Phantom when you’re ready to operate it commercially, AFTER you receive the Section 333 Exemption. At that point, you can replace the recreational number with your commercial number.

  10. Darrel Cordle
    March 31, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Hello Alan, Have you heard of any changes in the regulations of the requirement to have a full size pilots license to fly a uav for hire? Maybe a simplified ground school knowledge test? And what about the bill before the Senate requiring a ground school knowledge test so everyone that wants to fly an RC model as a hobby? The AMA appears to not want to mention that one so far!

    • April 1, 2016 at 12:23 am

      Hi Darrel, lots of questions, but no hard answers for you yet 🙂 You’re referring to what was published in NPRM 107 over a year go. A lot has changed since then. The FAA is expected to make an announcement soon re: micro UAS and hopefully next steps with all of this.

  11. Mike Jordan
    April 1, 2016 at 9:28 am

    It is a shame that we get excited about improving a paperwork issue. If that sentiment is widespread, it probably adds that much more time to REAL improvements from the FAA. What needs to happen is a path to a commercial sUAS license. I will be the first in line for that. But it is BEYOND ridiculous to require a full scale pilots license to commercially fly a sUAS, in the same manner that I can legally fly as a hobby. How many commercial pilots do we think are doing dumb things? How many hobbyist are doing dumb things? The FAA is focusing on the wrong group. The irony is so thick, I guess no one can see it

    • April 3, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Mike. I think people can see it. I also think people recognize that it’s incredibly challenging to think through every single edge case / bullet point when you’re putting together regulations, particularly as the technology continues to get more advanced. It’s a lot to process. Yes, we all wish the FAA could move faster, but they’re underfunded and doing the best they can. I’m proud of the progress they’ve made so far and confident that we’re moving in the right direction.

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