You must have been on Santa’s “Nice” list, because you got just what you had been wanting most- a drone of your very own, to fly anywhere you want. Well, not really anywhere…
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), if that droid weighs over one-half pound, you must register it before you fly it outside. Together with the Department of Transportation (DOT), the FAA recently announced new regulations mandating most drone operators to register their drones in a national database.
Anticipating that drones would be one of this season’s most popular gadgets, the authorities have begun cracking down on unlicensed drones. Amid their rising popularity, drones have also been accumulating a reputation for nuisance and trouble- everything from getting in the way of firefighters, to nosing around in neighbors’ business, sneaking drugs past prison security and flying dangerously close to manned aircraft.
On December 21, the new ordinances take affect for drones weighing more than 0.55lb (0.25kg), potentially affecting a substantial number of Christmas toys. Because licensed drone pilots must be over 13 years of age, many parents will no doubt be registering drones for their children. Anyone who owned a drone prior to December 21, will have until February 19 to comply with regulations.
Although a company spokesperson did not immediately answer the request for a comment, a Spinmaster customer service agent was able to divulge the weight of one of its most popular vehicles this season. Its Millennium Falcon toy and remote weigh a mere 1.7lb, in the packaging. While a few of the smaller vehicles may weigh in under the limit, many of the units, especially those designed to be cameras, will require registration.
One particularly popular camera drone, the DJI Phantom 1, weighs in at approximately 2.6lb. The Parrot Bebop, a camera drone intended to be small and lightweight weighs 0.88lb before placing the external hull designed to protect the rotors- the hull pushes it over one pound. Both of these models will require registration by February.
The DOT, however, has stipulated that registration is required only for drones that will be flown in national airspace. By stating on their packages that the drone toys are only to be flown indoors, manufacturers may have provided their customers with a loophole for avoiding the registration process.
In their rulemaking, regulators acknowledged that the widespread sales of the gadgets will bring about an increased number of novice aviators. Because these would-be pilots have no understanding of the National Airspace System or its safety requirements, the issue may require further attention.
Total U.S. sales for the flying drones are expected to reach 1.6 million in 2015, with nearly half of those shipping just in time for Christmas morning.
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