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UAS Law Alert – FAA Issues Interim Final Rule for UAS Registration Process

FAA Issues Interim Final Rule Establishing Registration Process for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

On December 16, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published an Interim Final Rule establishing a new process for the registration and marking of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) over 250 grams (approximately 8.8 ounces) and up to 55 pounds through a web-based registration system.

To register using the new system, sUAS owners must:

  • Satisfy citizenship or permanent residence requirements;
  • Establish an account on the FAA’s web-based registration system;
  • Provide their name, physical address and mailing address, and email address;
  • Pay a $5.00 fee (waived through January 20, 2016); and
  • Review a summary of operating guidelines.

Registered users will be issued a Certificate of Aircraft Registration with a unique registration number that may be used to mark all sUAS they own. Users will be required to:

  • Affix the registration number to their sUAS by any means necessary to ensure it will remain attached during routine handling and all operating conditions;
  • Maintain the registration number in a legible condition;
  • Ensure the registration number is visible upon inspection without the use of tools;
  • Update their registration information within 14 days of any change;
  • Renew their registration every three years by verifying their registration information and paying a $5.00 fee; and
  • Present a printed or electronic copy of their Certificate of Aircraft Registration upon request by any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer.

Users purchasing or obtaining a sUAS on or after December 21, 2015, will be required to register prior to its first operation. Owners that purchased their sUAS prior to December 21, 2015 will have sixty days—until February 19, 2015—to register.

The new rule will appear in a new section of the FAA regulations at 14 C.F.R. Part 48.

Accompanying the interim final rule, the Department of Transportation issued a Privacy Act System of Records Notice amending the FAA’s Aircraft Registry to accommodate new registrations under Part 48. The Notice clarifies that all information provided during registration may be made available to law enforcement when necessary and relevant to an FAA enforcement activity, and that members of the general public may retrieve the name and address of sUAS owners by their unique registration number through the Aircraft Registry.

While the new registration system announced by the interim rule will be initially limited to only hobby and recreational users, the FAA will permit other types of sUAS users, including public entities, to participate beginning March 31, 2016. These users will be required to also provide the manufacturer, model, and serial number, and pay a $5.00 fee for each sUAS that will not be operated exclusively for hobby or recreation. The FAA will issue a unique registration number to each sUAS that is so registered.

The FAA’s interim final rule follows the Department of Transportation’s October 23, 2015 announcement that it would begin requiring the registration of sUAS, and recommendations provided to the FAA by the UAS Registration Task Force on November 23, 2015. Comments on the FAA’s interim final rule are due by January 15, 2015, which the FAA will address in promulgating a final rule with respect to sUAS operations.