Whether you fly drones for fun or for business, you’re a pilot. And for every pilot, safety is number one.
Like many aviation professionals, we do both—when we’re not at work, we fly for fun through our own Skyward Drone Flight Club. So we’ve been closely following the FAA’s new registration rules for recreational drones.
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta discussed drone registration and how drone pilots are becoming part of the National Airspace System.
“Safely integrating these new pilots into the national airspace system is one of the FAA’s top priorities in order to protect manned aircraft, to protect people on the ground, and of course to protect innovation,” Huerta said.
“Simply put, registration…provides us with a key opportunity to educate the new generation of airspace users: As soon as they start flying outside, they become pilots.”
Over 180,000 drone operators, including many of my fellow Skywardians, have already registered.
This is exciting news: FAA registration means that our industry is one step closer to the clear rules and regulations that innovation needs in order to gain momentum and thrive. But ultimately, the responsibility lies with those of us who take to the sky.
Skyward’s Drone Flight Club Gets Registered
Skyward’s platform supports commercial drone operators, including our own operations. In the course of our research and development, we fly under our 333 exemption using our N-Numbered registered drones and manage our records within Skyward.
And when our Drone Flight Club goes out to the woods on the weekends, we use Skyward to manage those flights too.
Registration is a way to affirm individual responsibility for operating in the national airspace. According to the FAA’s rules on drone registration, “Any time a…UAS is in operation, the operator of that UAS should be prepared to produce the certificate of registration for inspection.”
As dedicated drone pilots, we registered with the FAA as soon as the site went live in mid-December. The registration system isn’t perfect, but it’s a start.
We advocate incorporating best practices from cybersecurity and internet protocols in order to best manage this new era of aviation. That’s why we provided a seven-page technical recommendation and standards guideline to the FAA’s registration task force. Although our concerns were not addressed with the current registration system, we agree with the intent. This is just the first step in the process.
Our Experience: Drone Registration Is Easy
A common misconception is that you register your drones with the FAA, just as you register your car with the DMV. Instead, pilots register, which makes it more similar to a driver’s license: If you buy a new drone, you don’t have to register again. Your registration applies to any drone you fly, as long as your registration number is attached to the body of the craft.
Registration lasts for three years. It costs $5, but if you register prior to January 20, 2016, registration is free. We documented the registration process so you can see just how easy it is. Click images to see details and captions.
To comply with the new registration requirements, we keep our information securely stored within our Flight Club organization in Skyward. It’s easy to access at any time and allows us to meet the requirements of registration to produce the registration certificate.
Just like all aviators, members of our Drone Flight Club organize, track, and share information for our recreational flights. We set up a dedicated organization within Skyward called the Skyward Drone Flight Club.
The first rule of Drone Flight Club? If you didn’t log it, it didn’t happen.
Rules and Guidelines – In the Skyward Drone Flight Club we stick to a community based organization’s guidelines for safe flight, as instructed in section 336 of public law 112-95 and Part 101 in the proposed rules, commonly referred to as the NPRM, released February 15, 2015 docket number FAA-2015-0150.
Tracking time – Just because it’s a hobby doesn’t mean there can’t be some competition, too. We use Skyward to track our flight hours and compare who’s been spending more time at the controls. Tracking time on our airframes also informs us when maintenance checks and tasks are due.
Documents – Sharing documents is a great way to help each other stay current and accountable. Documents we store include checklists, manuals, and maintenance procedures – the last two are convenient when we have some of the same aircraft such as a Phantom 3 Advanced or Parrot Bebop.