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FAA Makes Big Change to Drone ID Law

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a new rule in the Federal Register requiring small drone owners to display the FAA-issued registration number on an outside surface of the aircraft. Previously, owners and operators were permitted to place or write registration numbers in an interior compartment. The rule is effective on February 25, 2019.  After this date, the registration ID must be in place for any flight.

When the FAA first implemented a registration requirement for small drones back in 2015, the agency mandated that the registration marking be readily accessible and maintained in readable condition. The rule granted some flexibility by permitting the marking to be placed in an enclosed compartment, such as a battery case, if it could be accessed without the use of tools.

However, since the enactment of the initial rule, law enforcement officials and the FAA’s interagency security partners have expressed concerns about the risk a concealed explosive device might pose to first responders upon opening a compartment to find a drone’s registration number. The FAA believes the revised rule will enhance safety and security by allowing a person to view the unique identifier directly without handling the drone.

This new rule does not specify a particular external surface on which the registration number must be placed. The requirement is that it can be observed upon visual inspection of the aircraft’s exterior.

The FAA has issued this requirement as an Interim Final Rule—a rule that takes effect while also inviting public comment.  Accordingly, the FAA will consider comments from the public on this Interim Final Rule, and will then review any submissions to determine if the provisions of the ultimate Final Rule should be changed. The 30-day comment period will end on March 15, 2019. To submit comments, go to //www.regulations.gov and search for “RIN 2120-AL32.”

In addition, the FAA has also posted new rules that will permit drones to routinely fly at night and over populated areas.


Craig H. Handler, Esq. is an experienced attorney focusing his practice on complex commercial, construction, real estate, insurance and technology issues. Mr. Handler has been recognized as one of the few attorneys on Long Island with expertise in local, state and federal legislation regulating the use of unmanned aerial vehicle systems for use in non-hobbyist and commercial applications. Mr. Handler is also an experienced drone pilot himself, who enjoys using his DJI Phantom 4 Pro and DJI Mavic Pro to capture photos and video on the east end of Long Island.