NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - December 18, 2015) - Beginning February 19, 2016, the FAA will require all drones (Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or "UAS" in FAA terminology) weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to be registered, lest the owner face stiff penalties. Consequences for not registering include fines of up to $27,000 or, where criminal liability has been found, a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years in jail. What this new requirement means for the hobbyist or consumer is that all but the smallest nano-scale quadcopters will need to be registered to be flown outdoors.

Registration will cost $5, and must be renewed every three years. The registration process won't open until December 21; however, one can start the process today by reading the downloadable documentation at the FAA website. Early registrants who complete their application before January 20, 2016, will have their $5 fee refunded. Once successfully registered, you will receive a unique identification number that must be displayed somewhere accessible, without the use of tools (but not necessarily external), on the drone -- inside an easily-accessible battery compartment is probably ideal in most cases. The FAA is keen to stress that this number is not the same as an "N-number" or "tail number." Rather, it is a unique code that ties a particular drone to its owner. If one has a collection of several drones, the same number can be applied to each.

Since the number pairs with the owner, and not the aircraft, it should be removed when one sells a drone or gives it away. The new owner will then need to apply for their own registration number, if they do not already have one.

Read about the FAA Requires Registration of Consumer UAVs at B&H Explora

After December 21st, registration can be initiated online through the FAA website, or via regular mail. At this time, only non-commercial drones in the 0.55- to 55-pound weight range can be registered online. Commercial operators of any size drone, or hobbyists with aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds, must continue to register as until now, through the mail. In these cases, different fees and conditions may apply.

For more information regarding registration and safe flying practices, a great place to start is the official FAQ on the FAA website. Registration applies to users in the US. For operators in other countries, please check with your local authorities or RC clubs in your area to discover what regulations apply.

The need to regulate the use of drones is a natural upshot of the immense popularity they enjoy of late, especially in their use a platform for aerial imaging. B&H Photo Video, trusted for decades as a source for everything related to photography and videography, carries a full line of all the most popular drones, and accessories.

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