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300,000 Drones Registered With The Government, FAA Says

Failure to register an aircraft can carry civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal violations can lead to fines of up to $250,000 and three years in prison.

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Against industry recommendations, the federal government will begin charging drone owners $5 as part of a mandatory registration program that’s entering its second month. The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it has registered nearly 300,000 drone owners so far.

The national registry, which went online late December last year, requires owners of unmanned aircraft to enter their name, address, and email into a national database. Transportation Department officials say the purpose of the database is to provide an “educational opportunity” for pilots and to give law enforcement the ability to connect wayward aircraft to their law-breaking operators.

Before the registry was designed, a special task force comprised of drone-related businesses, including representatives from Amazon, GoPro, and Walmart, put forth registration recommendations to the FAA. One such proposal instructed the agency to exclude a registration fee — to free consumers from possible financial burdens as a result of new regulations. The FAA decided to offer free registration only for the first 30 days.

As the first month of registration draws to a close, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he is pleased with the public’s initial response to the registry. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta echoed this sentiment. “The registration numbers we’re seeing so far are very encouraging,” he said Friday. “We’re working hard to build on this early momentum and ensure everyone understands the registration requirement.”

Drone owners who have flown in the past have until Feb. 19 to sign up. For new owners who purchased unmanned aircraft after Dec 21, 2015, registration is required sometime before your first flight.

Hamza Shaban is a technology policy reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Hamza Shaban at Hamza.Shaban@buzzfeed.com.

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