Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

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FAA, DOT Unveil Small, Unmanned Aircraft System Registration Requirements

Dec. 14, 2015

Following input from a joint industry/government task force, which included participation from NBAA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and FAA will issue regulations this week governing the registration of many small, unmanned aircraft systems (s-UAS) operated in the national airspace system (NAS).

FAA, DOT Unveil Small, Unmanned Aircraft System Registration Requirements

Under the interim final rule to be published Dec. 15, non-commercial operators of sUAS weighing between 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms) will be required to pay a triennial $5 fee to register their systems. Any UAS purchased before Dec. 21, 2015 must be registered by Feb. 19, 2016, while UAS purchased after Dec. 21 must be registered prior to their first flight outdoors.

Non-commercial sUAS users, including operators of radio-controlled aircraft, will be issued a single registration number, which may then be applied to all s-UAS they operate. The newly announced registration requirements don’t apply to commercial s-UAS operators, which must continue to utilize the Section 333 exemption process as the FAA works on defined regulations for the segment.

NBAA has long maintained that it is imperative that any introduction plan for UAS be thoughtful, deliberative and focused on safety. This means UAS should not share the same airspace with manned aircraft until they have equivalent certification and airworthiness standards as manned aircraft, including the ability to take timely directions from air traffic control, and to sense and avoid other manned aircraft and UAS.

NBAA Senior Manager of Security and Facilitation Sarah Wolf, who represented the association on the Registration Task Force, said that most of the group's recommendations were reflected in the final rule.

"However, NBAA is concerned that the $5 registration fee will actually discourage many individuals from registering their UAS,” said Wolf. “Given the agency’s stated goal that the registration process should serve primarily to educate s-UAS operators, we feel that process should be as inclusive as possible."

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx noted that registration fees paid before Jan. 20, 2016 will be refunded to encourage operators to register their unmanned aircraft. "We want to bring these new users into the culture of safety that defines American aviation," he stated. "Make no mistake, unmanned aircraft operators are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility."

FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker noted that today's aviation environment is much different than the past, in which all operators in the NAS were highly trained in a "deeply embedded" culture of safety.

"The reality today is that most UAS operators have little to no aviation experience,” he said. "The moment they decide to fly, they are pilots."

Registrations may be submitted via paper forms, or through a dedicated website, which will go live next week. View the website.