LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

First Step in Flying a Drone Begins on Land

By Erin Delmore
Correspondent

“If a drone goes missing and winds up on someone’s roof, or in someone’s yard or hits someone’s car, you know how to track it back to somebody,” Steven Cohen, President of Drone User Group, said.

Credit the FAA’s new registration requirement for anyone who owns a drone that weighs more than .55 pounds.

“Kids who are getting toy drones to fly around the house, it’s not going to be an issue,” Cohen said. “Something that’s meant to carry a GoPro, or have a camera and a recording device or a GPS will cross that limit.”

They’re the first federal rules governing drones among hobbyists. Owners have to register on the FAA’s website with their name, home and email addresses. Owner then place an identification number on each of their drones. It’s on the owner to get done.

“By having your name attached to something, I think it helps people to be safer and to operate in a more respectful way,” Cohen said.

The new rules come on the heels of a report by Bard College citing 240 close-calls between drones and airplanes nationwide. That includes nearly 90 incidents in the tri-state area. The FAA warns that failure to comply could cost you up to $27,500 in fines, or up to three years in jail.

“I expect that early on the FAA will not seek draconian penalties on people, but will use it more as a PR measure to try and educate, but to the extent that these regulations are in place it will allow them to go after folks with more tools in their arsenal,” McCarter & English partner Scott Christie said.

Christian Loran is the Founder and CEO of NJ Drone Store in Totowa.  He says the key to the industry is education.

“That’s what we’re all about,” he said. “We’re all about not just selling you drones, but helping you learn about it. Like, if you came into the store and said, ‘Hey, I have three thousand dollars to blow, and I want to get that big drone’ I would ask, ‘Have you ever flown before?’ And if you say no, I’m not going to sell you that big drone. I’m going to point you toward one of the smaller ones and explain, you’ve got to learn the basics.”

Hundreds of thousands are expected to fly off shelves this holiday season. A good rule of thumb is that most drones under $100 won’t qualify for registration.

“If they did buy one that was large enough that it would require being registered, you know, we would just point them in the right direction to all the stuff that they would need to fill out to get that ID number for their drone,” Loran said.b When asked if the registration requirement is hurting business, he said, “Not really. It’s all about just educating people. Think about cars. Would having to register your vehicle deter you from buying a car?”

The FAA says, if you already have a drone you can start registering it by Dec. 21. The deadline is Feb. 19. They will waive the $5 charge if you do it within the first 30 days. Remember, that only goes for drones that are between .55 and 55 pounds. If you do find one under your Christmas tree this year, the FAA says to get your license and registration squared away before your first flight.