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US government to require registration of some small drones

Some consumer drones will have to be registered with the Department of Transportation, the agency announced this afternoon. The department wants to create a "streamlined" registration process that will allow it to collect information on drone owners so that they can be investigated in the event of an incident. The department also intends for the registration process to inform drone owners of the regulations that they have to follow while flying, potentially reducing incidents in the first place by increasing knowledge around how consumer drones are allowed to be flown.

Drones with a "low safety risk" won't have to be registered

Full registration rules haven't been developed, but the department wants them to be finished soon. It's created a task force that'll deliver a report and recommendations on how to implement the registration process by November 20th. Though few details have been nailed down, the department says that it doesn't intend to require regulation for all drones. Drones with a "low safety risk" — ones that are more like toys, for instance — won't require registration, although it still needs to determine where and how to draw the line.

The department expects that the registration requirement will also be retroactive, eventually requiring existing drone owners to register their vehicles. The rules are being developed by the DOT in conjunction with the FAA and several industry representatives, including people from the drone and airline industries. The department says that the development and implementation of the registration system won't impact the already delayed FAA regulations for small drones.

Registration is meant to address the growing number of problematic drone crashes throughout the US, such as one that crash landed in Yellowstone, another that crash landed at the White House, and another that hit spectators at a Virginia bull run. "It's hard to follow rules if you don't know what the rules are or that they apply to you," Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said today. "Registration gives operators the ability to learn the rules before they fly."