TESTED: AMA Member and Model Aviation magazine contributor Terry Dunn’s article “FAA’s Plans for Drone Registration: What You Should Know”


Details of the upcoming regulations are scarce–nonexistent, actually.

Terry spent 15 years as an engineer at the Johnson Space Center. He is now a freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas. Visit his website at TerryDunn.org and follow Terry on Twitter: @weirdflight

At a press conference held earlier today, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it is planning to implement a requirement for all operators of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS – a.k.a. “drones”) to register their aircraft in a national database. Even hobbyists will be subject to the requirement. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made this announcement while sharing the stage with Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA – a branch of the DOT), Michael Huerta, as well as leaders from various drone advocacy and commercial aviation organizations.




  1. I am truly concerned for all the new legislation creeping up on us lately.

    We never, EVER had these kinds of problems until the multirotor “drones” became popular. May I suggest that rather than try to fight all the new legislation coming our way (and it will only get worse, exponentially in the future), that we, as the AMA, fight to restrict the mutirotor “drones” instead? In other words, all we have to do is convince the public that there is a major difference between a model airplane or model helicopter and a “drone”. Then, once that takes hold, all this new legislation will specifically call out drones and leave us modelers alone.

    I know, the AMA wants to include multirotor ‘pilots’ into the fold. However, I believe that “drone” pilots are not ‘real’ pilots, and THEY are the problem. The “drones” are toys, models are models. As soon as the public is educated about the difference, things will get a lot easier for us. I think the AMA should stick to traditional aeromodelling and specifically exclude “drones” from the insurance coverage. If not, the AMA is doomed as the bad behavior of the typical Toys-R-Us “drone” consumer will reflect poorly upon all of us aero modelers.

    1. I personally have witnessed an AMA member flying his FPV airplane above 100% cloud cover and over 1 mile from the point of launch all the while claiming what he was doing was legal. It is not just quads/flyers causing problems. In addition I have watched a video of a manufacturers flight test of a prototype airplane with an explosive on board that was detonated remotely.

      The AMA and its membership need to take an aggressive role in reporting and removing these people from the sanctioned body.
      Bad as that seems it may save the hobby from our over reaching government.

      Registering is a enforcement enhancement not a safety enhancement. Every airliner that has crashed had a N number.

  2. First off, the word DRONE is a big problem… the popular press thinks all drones are quads… Hey, the drones used by our military and spy agencies (and they are called drones) are single engined fixed wing.

    Many fixed wing model aircraft are helicopters too are affixed with cameras. The popularity of cheap quads is based on cost and not needing a large area to fly.

    I have one quad that weighs 17grams (5/8 of an ounce), no camera and only flown in local park or gym.

    I think the cross-over for registering should be weight. Ultra light aircraft, and sport pilot planes are limited to certain weights.

    55LBS has been mentioned, as has 25 lbs and 4.4 lbs. I have a SYMA 5c with low res camera nd it weighs less than a lb.

    I can live with 4.4 lbs (2 Kilos).

    Many AMA members thing that their fixed wing devices aren’t under discussion, only quads.

    AMA should lead the charge against this lunacy, it will affect all of us. Maybe the feds will come after Control Lines as well.

  3. I personally have seen an AMA member flying his FPV AIRPLANE above 100% cloud cover and over a mile from the launch point all the while claiming what he was doing was legal.

    I have also seen you tube video of a manufacturer test flying a prototype AIRPLANE on which an explosive device was detonated remotely.

    This us vs. “THEY” drivel is not constructive at all.

    I think registration is another form over reaching government designed only to enhance enforcement not safety. Every US airliner that has crashed had an N number.

    IF the AMA is taking a “join them” approach, then it would seem the AMA and its members will have to develop an aggressive reporting program and remove offenders as those above from the sanctioning body.

  4. Registering an RC aircraft is just utter nonsense! All it would be doing is making law abiding citizens that have no intention of harming anybody or anything register, pay a fee and be restricted on what they can or can’t fly. A terrorist or anyone else that would actually cause harm would NOT register or comply with the law because they have no regard for the law to begin with, that’s why they are criminals and terrorists to begin with. The damned government can’t even regulate itself, let alone, ANYTHING else.So what makes people believe that registering an RC aircraft is going to make anything or anyone safer? The real threat to society is its corrupt government that’s out if control. We keep on losing rights to pursue our happiness the government is going to find out alot of people are not happy no more and that we longer have anything to do with our time but to think of ways to overthrow their tyranny! When is this madness going to stop? It isn’t going to stop if people keep on being quiet and stand their watching your rights disappear…….

  5. The FAA’s proposed registration system must be a reasonable system that will be viewed by both UAS operators and full-scale aircraft pilots as a legitimate system. This can be accomplished by having a defined threshold for the UAS that must be registered and the UAS that do not have to be registered.
    This basic threshold should be at a UAS that has the following characteristics. Drones with these characteristics should not be registered:
    – Operational weight equal or less than two pounds. (This includes batteries, propellers, motors, and electronic systems as well as the airframe.)
    – Flight duration of up to 15 minutes.
    – Airspeed below about 25 miles per hour in level flight.
    – A frangible airframe made of cardboard, paper, balsa wood or light plastic that is intended to break on serious impact. (This standard could draw upon the model rocket experience with this type of airframe.)
    – Capable only of flight within direct manual control of the operator. This control would be conducted within line-of-sight of the operator.
    – Not equipped with first-person-view (TV based operation).
    – Payload, such as a camera, limited to a few ounces.
    Recreational and educational drones with more capability than this should be registered. In addition, all drones that are used for commercial service should be registered. This is because commercial drones will often be used in closer proximity to people than recreational drones are.

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