If you didn’t already know, a drone registration number must be visible somewhere on its surface. Kinda like an airplane or helicopter, if you’ve seen one up close. This is because the FAA classifies drones as “unmanned” aircraft, which are subject to similar registration requirements as “manned” aircraft. (See 14 CFR Part 48.205, the official statute).

Up until now, there was an exception to this rule. The registration number could be placed in a compartment somewhere inside the drone, if it could be accessed without the use of tools. Personally, I place my registration number next to the serial number, usually inside the battery bay.

However, the FAA just changed this rule. Becoming effective February 25th, 2019, registration number may only be placed on the surface of the drone. No longer can we place it somewhere inside it.

But why does it matter?

The FAA is likely introducing this change as a security matter. According to the FAA, if a concealed explosive was ever placed inside a drone, the risk first responders would face could be less without having to open it up to identify who it’s registered to. And if it could be identified from a distance, then all the safer.

But even looking beyond an unlikely event such as this, it makes sense that the FAA will introduce more stringent registration standards when they begin fully integrating drones into the National Airspace System (hopefully in the near future). In fact, when this happens, I suspect there will be a lot more regulatory changes, beyond just drone registration. There may even be additional certification requirements… But that’s a whole other conversation. 

For the time being, placing your registration on the surface of your drone is the FAA’s new rule. And those of us with our registration numbers placed inside our drones must re-position accordingly. I’ll probably be placing mine somewhere on the side. Just like our manned aircraft counterparts.

All said and done, it’s not much of an inconvenience. Just don’t forget to do it!



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Telos Aerial is a commercial drone training and services company operating out of Denver, Colorado. Founded in 2016 just prior to the roll out of FAA’s Part 107 certification program, TA’s remote pilots were among the first wave of drone enthusiasts to enter the emerging commercial drone industry.

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