If you bought your drone after Dec. 21, you must register it before its first flight.
If you bought your drone after Dec. 21, you must register it before its first flight.

It’s official – the FAA is requiring all drones between 0.55 lb and 55 lb to be registered. There is an online portal to do so (click here), but if you intend to use the unmanned aerial vehicle for commercial purposes (as many farmers do), you will need to fill out a paper application.

Existing UAS owners must register no later than Feb. 19, 2016. Anyone purchasing a drone after Dec. 21, 2015, must register before their first outdoor flight. Operators will receive a unique identification number, valid for three years, that must be marked on the drone.

Does that process seem annoying, or even a bit “Big Brother-ish?” Ray Asebedo, precision agriculture specialist with Kansas State University, and Kurt Caraway, UAS manager with KSU Polytechnic, say these new steps actually are positive for the agriculture industry.

“The registration of UAS helps draw attention to very important protocols for conducting safe flight operations,” they write in a recent edition of K-State’s eUpdate newsletter. “Just as important as it is for owners of vehicles to know driving protocols that emphasize the motto share the road, [drone] operators should also recognize we need to share the sky.”

Asebedo and Caraway also note that the FAA is providing valuable resources, guidance, and regulations that will lead to  positive impacts and experiences of drones in the agriculture industry as use in this sector continues to grow.

The researchers also say it’s better that the FAA has domain of drone regulation, rather than at the state level. That’s because multiple state rules would likely be inconsistent and a cause for regulatory headaches.

“Had it been determined that UAS would be regulated at the state level, regulations for UAS would then be different depending upon the state in which the pilot in command was located, or UAS use could have been potentially outlawed at each state’s discretion,” the researchers note. “However, with UAS regulated by the FAA, UAS operators will have greater stability and consistency in the regulations for UAS operations in agriculture across state lines.”

Several states are offering courses or workshops on drone operation, safety and other topics. Check with your state’s Extension services for details. For all of AgWeb's drone coverage, visit www.FarmWithDrones.com.