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Some drone owners must register with FAA

Posted at 7:23 PM, Dec 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-21 21:23:01-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- They're all the rage this holiday season -- drones. And knowing that  the Feds are now requiring owners to register certain drones.

About 700,000 drones are expected to be sold this year -- a 63 percent jump from last year. A big boon for manufacturers and big headaches for law enforcement.

They're fun to fly, they hover and they can capture video. It's a super cool gadget, but they can be a danger.

Drones are flying off the shelves at HobbyTown, but not all drones have to be registered with the F-A-A. Drones under half a pound are exempt. The Feds are not worried about them -- the small lighter toy drones that sell for under 100 dollars.

Larger and heavier drones are capable of high flying feats. Fun high tech gadgets that the FAA is worried about and drone pilot Robert Luscumb of Desert Sky Photography doesn't blame them. He favors the registration requirement.

"It keeps people culpable for their actions," he said.

Heavier drones swarm higher in the skies -- the government wants greater accountability and responsibility for pilots after nearly a thousand dangerous close calls with manned aircraft in the last two years.

Drones flying above California's forest fires forced the grounding of tankers battling the blaze and sent the White house in lock down. A drone startled spectators at the US Open back in September and stopped play for a brief time.

Luscumb's drone will stop and hover if he take his hands off the controls, but many drones aren't as high tech,  which can make them dangerous if they go rogue. "If the battery went out or you dropped it, the thing would keep going and it could hit something or somebody," he said.

So drone pilots now have register on the F-A-A website. It'll cost 5 bucks to register -- free for the first 30 days. The FAA will refund the money.

You give them your name, address, email and credit card information. The Feds give you a tracking number to clearly display on your drone and email you a certificate, which you must have on hand when flying your drone.

So if your drone goes rogue authorities and even your neighbors can hunt you down through a searchable public database.

"I think it makes people obey the rules more if they're registered," said Luscumb.

So what happens if you don't register your drone? You could face civil penalties of up to $27,500 dollars. Or even criminal penalties -- fines up to$250,000 and possibly up to three years in prison.

The FAA website did not go up as planned Monday morning. It finally went live later in the afternoon.

Click here to register on the FAA website.

Click here for more FAA information on drone ownership and regulations