If Santa Brings You a Drone, You’re Going to Have to Let the FAA Know About It

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Drone in Flight
The FAA knows all you want for Christmas is a flying robot. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If you find a drone under the Christmas tree, you will now be required to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration before you run out in your p.j.s and accidentally fly it too close to an airplane. The FAA announced Monday the new rules for drone hobbyists, who will need to report their unmanned aircraft systems — the official name for these flying robots — that weigh between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, which covers, with the exception of some small toys, most recreational drones.

The FAA will roll out the online registry on December 21. New drone owners over the age of 13 will need to sign up before their first official flight. People who already own these kinds of drones will need to enroll by February 19, 2016. Registration costs $5, but the FAA — realizing that drones are high on the hot holiday gifts list — will refund that amount if people sign up within the first 30 days that the new system is in place. 

Drone owners who don’t register and get caught when they crash their machines at tennis matches or on the White House lawn, could face hefty fines, or in some cases imprisonment. There have been hundreds of cases in recent years — nearly two reports a day, says the FAA — where drones have had close calls in-air with commercial jets, to say nothing of stories of drones just creepily peeking into windows.

The FAA registry, however, is only for people who are flying for fun. Businesses are exempt, at least until the FAA releases its commercial drone regulations sometime in 2016.

FAA Is Unveiling Its Drone Registry Next Week