FAA to require operators to display registration number on drones from February 23

The USA is joining China in requiring drones to display their registration numbers. In China drone operators must have stickers with QR codes for identification on their drone platforms – in the USA the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be requiring drone owners to place their registration number on the outside of drones.

According to a notice in the Federal Register (see below)

This interim final rule requires small unmanned aircraft owners to display the unique identifier assigned by the FAA upon completion of the registration process (registration number) on an external surface of the aircraft. Small unmanned aircraft owners are no longer permitted to enclose the FAA-issued registration number in a compartment.

In the interim final rule titled “Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft” (Registration IFR), the FAA provided a web-based aircraft registration process for the registration of small unmanned aircraft to facilitate compliance with the statutory requirement that all aircraft register prior to operation. See 80 FR 78593 (December 16, 2015). The Registration IFR also required that the FAA-issued number assigned during the registration process be affixed or marked on the small unmanned aircraft. To grant flexibility to the diverse types of small unmanned aircraft commercially available, the FAA required that the registration number marking be readily accessible and maintained in a condition that is readable and legible upon close visual inspection. The IFR further explained that markings in an enclosed compartment, such as a battery compartment, will be considered readily accessible if they can be accessed without the use of tools. See id at 78627-28. This interim final rule revises the small unmanned aircraft marking requirement by requiring the registration number to be marked on the exterior of the aircraft. The FAA is taking this action to address concerns expressed by the law enforcement community and the FAA’s interagency security partners regarding the risk a concealed explosive device poses to first responders who must open a compartment to find the small unmanned aircraft’s registration number.

The FAA is fast-tracking implementation to just 10 days; it would normally ask for public comment on draft regulations such as this but believes there is good reason to move straight to implementation.

“The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA)4 resolved the uncertainty when it was signed into law on December 12, 2017 by restoring the applicability of the Registration IFR to model aircraft. Having resolved the applicability issue, the FAA finds that notice and comment would be contrary to the public interest. After highlighting this vulnerability in a proposed rule, first responders could be exposed to additional risk during the notice and comment period as a result of the attention drawn to the vulnerability. Given that the vulnerability would remain unmitigated while the proposed rule is being finalized, the agency has determined there is good cause to issue the rule without seeking prior notice and comment.”

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