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Many commercial drones, including those purchased over the holidays, must now be registered. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, starting February 19, all drones weighing between 0.55 to 50 pounds must be registered with their owners’ names and addresses in a national database. Violators can face civil penalties of up to $27,500 and three years in jail. 

Though people won’t be able to look up users by name, they will be able to identify names and addresses from the drone’s ID. The New York Times reports that disclosures are “meant to nudge users to be more responsible.” 

“Unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said Secretary of the Transportation Department Anthony Foxx. 

A Helping Hand For Investigations

These new regulations are a response to a rash of public incidences with drones, such as crashes at sporting events or those flying dangerously close to commercial airliners. Previously, it was difficult to identify the operator of a recovered drone when it endangered the public. This new database will make investigations much easier (even those conducted by neighbors).

Earlier this year when regulations were first announced, industry insiders expressed skepticism around a database.

“A national registry has serious implications for privacy,” said Vice President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation Daniel Castro. “Journalists may want to use drone photography to investigate government or industry corruption, or citizen journalists may want to use drones as part of a protest. Rules should be written so that some legitimate anonymous actions are still protected where possible.”

According to a FAA press release, the registration “does not yet support registration of small UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation—for example, using an unmanned aircraft in connection with a business.” Other exemptions or regulations are in the works. But, for now, if you’re selling, buying, or getting a toy drone for the holidays, be sure to be aware of the new rules.

Read more about the rules here.

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