Trump signs bill reinstating registration for hobbyist drones

By Patrick C. Miller | December 15, 2017

Drone registration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is once again mandatory for hobbyist and recreational operators after President Donald Trump on Dec. 12 signed a bill passed by Congress.

Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which applies primarily to defense funding, but also includes a measure reinstating the requirement for hobbyists to register drones with the FAA. Last May, a federal judge ruled that the agency had exceeded its authority regulate hobbyist and recreational drones, a category Congress had specifically excluded.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)—the world’s largest model aviation association with 195,000 members—believes “registration makes sense at some level.” However, the organization continues to advocate “for a more reasonable threshold.”

Currently, the FAA requires registration for drones weighing between .55 and 55 pounds for both commercial and recreational use. Those who fail to register can face civil and criminal penalties, according to the agency.

“While we address these issues, members will be legally required to comply with the FAA registration requirement,” the AMA said in a statement on its website.

The Property Drone Consortium (PDC), which represents a collaboration of insurance carriers, construction industry leaders and supporting enterprises, applauded Trump’s signing of the legislation reinstating the registration requirement.

“The Property Drone Consortium strongly supports this newly enacted legislation,” said Gary Sullivan, PDC cochairman. “With over 800,000 hobbyists already registered in the FAA’s database, it’s critical that both recreational and commercial operators in the U.S. national airspace system are held accountable to the same standards of safety and efficacy.” 

According to the PDC, the number of commercial and recreational operators of unmanned aircraft systems continues to grow exponentially in the U.S. with some forecasts predicting the number of recreational drones to triple by 2021.

“We’ve seen growing reports of interference by UAS operators in post-disaster operations,” said Bryan Corder with the PDC. “This legislation will help build confidence that drone operators can be identified if they fly irresponsibly.”