Unregistered Drone Flyers Face Fines and Jail Time

February 23, 2016



The Federal Aviation Administration's February 19 deadline for drone registrations, which was set in December, has now passed and the agency says "failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions." 

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”

The FAA is also imposing a $5 fee for registrations, over the objections of drone advocates. Drone users have complained about the fees, labeling them a "drone tax." Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, has sued the FAA over the rules, arguing the mandate violates a federal law prohibiting the FAA from regulating recreational drones.

“They exceed the authority Congress has given the FAA," Szoka said. "Moreover, the agency illegally bypassed the most basic transparency requirement in administrative law: that it provide an opportunity for the affected public to comment on its regulations. That means the FAA could not fully consider the real-world complexities of regulating drones. Thus, the FAA’s rules could lead to a host of unintended consequences.”

In an early suit, the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute said the FAA violated federal requirements for allowing public comments on the drone registration proposal, which usually lasts for a period of 30 to 60 days. 

The FAA has defended the legality of the system, saying the agency has the authority to regulate all "aircrafts" that are flown in the U.S. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says he is encouraged by the response to the drone registration rules, which were implemented by the Transportation Department in December after an increase in the number of reported drone sightings by commercial airline pilots. 

"The speed with which we were able to roll this out is a testament to the invaluable input we received from the diverse task force of stakeholders we brought together to work on this issue," he said in a recent speech at a drone policy summit in Washington.

The agency said Monday that 368,472 drones were registered by midnight on February 19, surpassing the number of airplanes that are on record with the federal government. 

Source: The Hill