How to Register Your Drone Before Flying

Drones are no doubt going to be one of the biggest holiday gifts this season. If you’re a new owner of one, congratulations. While they’re definitely fun and generally easy to fly – there are a few precautions to take to prevent a wreck or fines, starting with getting it registered.

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The following registration steps will apply to those living in the USA, but many countries are adopting their own rules and regulations in regards to drone regulation. That being said, it is best to look into those to verify that you’re flying legally.

Moving on, you’ll want to head over to the Federal Aviation Administration website to start the registration process. In short, all small unmanned aircraft weighing between .66 lbs and 55 lbs (pretty much all drones) must be registered with the FAA, and there will be a $5 fee.

An important part to this process is the selection of your Account Type. In this case we’ll assume you’re a casual and not-for-profit pilot. Select that option. If you plan to fly for commercial reasons, you’ll want to research that topic further, as it is a whole other setup process.

To get started:

  1. Click Register,
  2. Enter an email and password, and confirm that password.
  3. Click Create Account.
  4. Verify your email address.
  5. Enter your name and mailing address.
  6. Read and agree to the safety guidelines. Seriously though — do read them. They’re important for not only your safety but the safety of others. These things are practically flying weed-whackers.
  7. This is the part where you enter in your credit card information and cough up the five bucks.
  8. Verify your information you’ve provided on the next page.

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You’ll now be presented with your ten-digit registration number and a certificate sent to your email. The registration number can be used on multiple drones of the same owner, so there’s no need to register again for each individual drone you acquire. Write or paste the registration number somewhere on your drone, preferably on the body. I wrote mine on my DJI Phantom 3 under the battery compartment, as in the event of a crash, that piece is more than likely to stay intact (as opposed to a propeller).

The certificate isn’t necessary to carry around. However, I chose to keep a copy of mine in my wallet in case I’m ever questioned by anyone – and believe me, you will be questioned.

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You’d assume these would go without saying, but I’ve seen quite a few fail videos online. These tips should keep you from ending up like those guys.

  • Stay below 400ft, or 122m. I’ve been asked “how high can it go?” but the real question is “how high should it go?” This height restriction is to stay clear of manned aircraft and is implemented in the flight software of most, if not all, mid-level to professional drones.
  • Keep a visual line of sight. No, if you fly it behind a line of trees and under some branches, you probably won’t be able to fly it back safely, and the return to home feature will likely cause a wreck. Been there, tried that.
  • Avoid manned aircraft at all times. They always have the right of way in the skies!
  • Don’t fly over crowds. The technology keeping these things in the air is unparalleled and truly a marvel of the modern day, but accidents do happen. For shots of a crowd, shoot from an angle rather than flying directly overhead.
  • Don’t fly within five miles of an airport. This goes hand in hand with manned aircraft and right-of-way.
  • Don’t fly over power lines, tall buildings, or anything likely to cause interference. If the compass isn’t calibrated properly or if there is interference, “return to home” will malfunction and the drone will most certainly wreck — or fly away.

Once again, congratulations on your new drone! You’re now all set to take to the skies. Whether you’re getting shots of a concert for your YouTube channel, hanging with family at a barbecue, or dying to take your drone with you on your next ski trip, you can now do so with peace of mind from a legal and overall safety sense.

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