With astonishing speed, the FAA's registration deadline for drones is fast approaching. The initiative, announced in December and with a hard deadline of February 19th, 2016, requires anyone who owns an unmanned flying vehicle weighing more than half a pound to register it online with the agency. There's a $5 fee for each drone registered (or each fleet of model airplanes, if used exclusively for a hobby purpose), but people who register by January 20th will get that fee refunded. Time is, as they say, flying.
In 2012, Congress tasked the FAA with creating rules for integrating small unmanned aircraft into American skies. They wanted to see a registration system in place by the end of 2015. For several years, the FAA approved drone uses on a case-by-case basis. Last fall, they announced a task force to draft drone regulation rules, and borrowing some of the task force's suggestions, they rolled out a drone registry website on December 21st.
While drones heavier than 55 pounds still need special FAA approval, anything between half a pound and 55 pounds can be registered on the website. The FAA's task force recommended registration be free, to get greater participation from drone owners and model airplane hobbyists. Refunding the registration gets users part way there, if they act soon. People who wait after that can either pay $5 or have their drones grounded.