The FAA has ruled that most drone owners will have to register their devices starting next week.
The rules apply to drones heavier than a half-pound, which covers virtually all consumer devices other than small toys, and take effect Dec. 21, reported the Wall Street Journal. They require drone owners to register on a government website to receive a unique user number that they then must attach or write on any drones they own.

Regulators say registration will help them hold reckless drone operators accountable, which they hope will deter unsafe flights. The registration process would also put regulators in contact with drone users, enabling better education about drone rules.

”Registration will enforce the need for ... users to operate unmanned aircraft safely,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. Drone “enthusiasts are aviators and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility.”

However, some recreational drone users criticized the rule as a regulatory overreach, the Journal said. The Academy of Model Aeronautics, a model-aircraft group, said the requirement violates a 2012 law that largely prohibits the Federal Aviation Administration from regulating recreational drones. The group said the rules are “counter to Congress’s intent” and create “an unnecessary burden” for drone owners.

The FAA said it can require registration under existing aircraft-registration laws, meaning failure to register a drone technically carries the same penalties as failing to register a commercial aircraft, including up to $250,000 fines and prison for three years.

Users who purchased a drone before Dec. 21, when the rules take effect, will have until Feb. 19 to register. Drones purchased after Dec. 21 must be registered before their first flight.

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