Those looking to register their drones with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will have to wait until Christmas. Since launching its mandatory registry on Monday, some 45,000 drones have already been logged with the FAA's online database, which is now undergoing temporary maintenance to deal with an anticipated Christmas Day rush.
The drone database was officially announced earlier this month and requires owners of unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 lb (250 g and 25 kg) to register the vehicles with the FAA. The civil penalties for failing to do so go as high as US$27,500, while criminal penalties can result in fines of up to $250,000 and three years in prison.
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The new measure drew the ire of some in the drone industry, in particular Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), who was a member of the taskforce that made recommendations on how to best implement such a registration process.
"AMA is disappointed with the new rule for UAS registration ... Unfortunately, the new rule is counter to Congress's intent in the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and makes the registration process an unnecessary burden for our more than 185,000 members who have been operating safely for decades," he said in response to the rule.
For its part, the FAA maintains that mandatory registration will encourage pilots to learn how to fly the drones safely, while also providing a mechanism to hold them to account if they don't. Registration costs $5, though the agency is waiving this fee up until January 20, 2016.