Over the last couple of years, drones have gone a long way from expensive toys you used to play in your backyard or fly down your street to full-fledged massive UAVs capable of speeding miles away from your standing.
Obviously, this influenced the authorities’ decided that these small aircraft need to be regulated in one way or another. It's not like you can simply take some 300lb beast and fly it through a populated city like a toy chopper without having to comply with some rules and papyrology.
But, do you need to register every single drone regardless of its weight, size, or class, and if so, how to do that in the simplest possible manner?
These are the questions we’ll try to answer in the article below.
As we briefly mentioned above, present-day drones have grown into full-fledged UAVs that can often weigh hundreds of pounds. If they, for some reason, crash or are operated irresponsibly, they can cause very serious property damage or even human casualties.
So, you won’t be surprised to hear that all these aircraft need to be registered with national authorities or, to be more precise, Federal Aviation Administration (in the following text FAA).
But, the FAA does make one difference for the owners of aircraft that weigh 0.55 pounds or less (less than 250 grams) that can be flown exclusively under the so-called “Exception for Recreational Flyer.”
If you are confused about this term, "Recreational Flyers" also relates to financial compensation, so if you don’t profit from your drone and fly it only for recreational purposes, you can also apply for this license even if the aircraft weighs more than half a pound.
So, “Exception for Recreational Flyers” doesn’t only apply if you are buying the most affordable units under 100 bucks.
The perk of this arrangement is that the application process is straightforward, and you are allowed to operate your UAS (unmanned aircraft system) under the regulations of some community-based organization like, for instance, AMA (Academy for Model Aeronautic).
The price of this license is $5, the license number you get can be used on all aircraft you use for recreational purposes, and the document is valid for three years.
On the other hand, getting the recreational license means you will have to abide by certain limitations like flying below 400 feet, keeping the drone within the line of sight, and not interfering with other manned vehicles.
How to get a Recreational license?
As we mentioned above, the process of getting the Recreational license is as simple as it gets. Let's break it down into a couple of easy-to-follow steps:
- Go to the FAA Drone Zone website. Once you are there, click on the "Register" button in the "I Fly Under the Exception for Recreational Flyers” section on the page.
- Once you do that, you will be asked to create your personal account. To do that, you will need to provide a valid email address, create a password, and, of course, be at least 13 years old.
- The next step you will need to take is to fill in your personal information. The FAA will require your first and last name, physical address, mailing address (if it's different from your physical address), and personal phone number.
- When you enter this personal information, click on the “Checkout” button to go to the payment page. Here, you will need to provide your credit card information and treat the federal government with your $5.
- After all this is over, you will be assigned with a unique registration number you will be able to use in the following three years when you can renew it for the additional five bucks. Once again, this registration number is valid for ALL of your aircraft that are piloted under the “Exception for Recreational Flyers” regulations.
Part 107 license
So, that was the famous Recreational license. What happens if you want to pilot your aircraft over greater distances, use the drone for research, commercial purposes, non-profit work, journalism, education, and or other cases that are not covered by the narrow Recreational regulations?
Well, in this case, you will need to resort to the even more famous (some would call it infamous) Part 107 license. What makes this license so divisive?
Well, the easiest way to explain this is to break down the pros and cons of this document. Let's start with the positives.
Pros of Part 107 license
In the previous section, we could see that Recreational license enforces some pretty discouraging limitations. Seriously, what’s the point of having some of the best $1000 camera drones if you need to keep the drone within your eyesight?
Part 107 does not only bypass this strict limitation but gives you numerous other perks like, for instance, the ability to pilot the drone within 5 miles of airports in uncontrolled space (the only sensible option for the people who are actually living in the vicinity of some airport).
Interaction with other vehicles
This perk is best explained in an example. For instance, the Recreational license allows you to quickly fly over some other moving vehicle, but it doesn't allow you to keep a sustained trajectory above them. This can be pretty annoying if you ever want to capture some cityscape footage with any sort of traffic going on underneath. Once again, the Part 107 license imposes no limitations in this regard.
Boosting your credentials
Similarly to getting the drivers' license, owners of the Part 107 license need to pass a test to get this document. Getting this certification can be pretty valuable since drone pilots are in ever-increasing demand in all sorts of industries ranging from transportation and retail to construction.
You can never have enough knowledge
But, even if we put these employment opportunities aside, passing a test for the licensed drone pilot is useful… well, to make you a better drone pilot. Learning more about clouds, wind, weather conditions, and landing your aircraft on different types of terrain under different circumstances will make all of your flights much safer and potentially save you thousands of dollars in property damage.
Cons of Part 107 license
Yeah, this is the biggest drawback of the Part 107 license. Although this document costs only five bucks (much like the Recreational license), passing the test we have just mentioned above is everything but cheap. Yeah, applying for this certification will cost you a sweet $150, and if you fail the test, you will have to pay 150 more to get a second chance. This is the price at which you can get yourself some pretty good $300 drones.
You need a separate registration for each UAS
This is not such a big drawback since Part 107 registration costs only five bucks, but it's still worth saying that you will need to do this for all of your aircraft you intend to fly under Part 107 regulations.
How to get a Part 107 license?
Now, you know the most significant differences between these two licenses and what you get for your money's worth. Even if you don't want to use your aircraft for commercial purposes, the Part 107 license simply gives you more freedom and makes piloting in the city possible in any capacity.
On the other hand, there are pretty concerning financial implications associated with the test you will need to get this document.
So, what do you need to do if you are ready to go with this proposition?
Well, the process of registration is pretty much the same as with a Recreational license, so we are going to breeze through the necessary steps without any complicated explanations.
- Go to the FAA Drone Zone website
- Click on the “Register” and select “I Fly Under Part 107”
- Register your email and password
- Fill in your personal information (in this case, you will also need to fill in the make and model of your drone)
- Proceed to the “Checkout” and pay your $5
At least, it’s good to see that the registration process is as simple as it possibly gets.
What to do after acquiring the registration?
Last but not least, it is important to remember that getting the registration number for your drones is not enough. Much like cars, you will need to put the registration number you get somewhere on the aircraft. The good news is that you won’t have to get a pair of plates – you just need to take the number and put it somewhere on the exterior of the body.Also, fly safely. Even if you don't cause any property damage or, even worse, injure someone, the violations of FAA fees can get you fees that go all the way up to 182,000 dollars. Keep this in mind whenever you take off.