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U.S. drone registration has officially topped 1 million

The total number of drones now registered in the U.S. through the Federal Aviation Administration has topped one million.

That number is the sum of about 878,000 hobbyists, who each receive one identification number for all the drones they own, plus 122,000 commercial, public and other drones, which are individually registered by aircraft.

“The tremendous growth in drone registration reflects the fact that they are more than tools for commerce and trade, but can save lives, detect hazardous situations and assist with disaster recovery, said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao in a prepared statement.  “The challenge is to remove unnecessary hurdles to enable the safe testing and integration of this technology into our country’s airspace.”

Under current law, all drones that weigh more than 0.55 pounds are required to be registered through the FAA. Registration was originally required under the FAA’s small drone registration rule effective December 21, 2015.  That rule was overturned by a court decision in May 2017, however the rule was again reinstated in December 2017 via the National Defense Authorization Act.

The FAA’s drone registration program requires hobby drone owners to register through an FAA website for a $5 fee. The website also provides the registrant with a brief safety message before being able to proceed. Drone hobbyists are then issued a unique identification, which they are required to mark on their drones. Within the first month, nearly 300,000 drone owners had registered.

Registration is intended to force some education upon pilots who may not have malicious intent, but also may not have read the “Know Before You Fly” guidelines included with most drone purchases in the U.S. It also means that government and law enforcement officials will be able to track down reckless drone operators — something that, until now, they haven’t been able to do.

While hobby pilots do not state what drone they are flying when registering, commercial pilots do. 70% of all drones registered are made by DJI.

However, the one million drones cited in the FAA’s database likely far from represents the total number of drones flying. There is very little enforcement of flying a registered drone, and very few hobby drone pilots are aware that drone registration is even an option. By some estimates, 5 million drones have been sold in recent years in the U.S., according to Bard College.

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