US Government Fast-Tracks Drone License Plate Mandate

Officials cited terrorism threats and first-responder safety as key factors in the new rule.

Beginning this month, hobbyists and professionals alike will have to display a “unique identifier” (aka registration number) on the outside of their drones. The requirement comes from an interim rule the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) published today.

Citing “good cause” for immediate adoption, the agencies announced the rule will go into effect Feb. 25, 2019, despite a public comment period that lasts until March 15. The move modifies the existing mandate, which allows owners to place the required registration sticker inside a battery compartment or elsewhere out of plain sight.

According to the agencies’ decision, the rule addresses fears of “imminent risk of harm” first responders face when recovering downed drones.

“The FAA is taking this action to address concerns expressed by the law enforcement community and the FAA’s interagency security partners regarding the risk a concealed explosive device poses to first responders who must open a compartment to find the small unmanned aircraft’s registration number,” the new rule states.

The move is sure to receive backlash from owners who don’t want to place large stickers on their sleek drones.

But the FAA added a provision to appease certain groups. The provision allows owners to place the registration sticker inside a battery compartment — as long as it can be accessed without the use of tools.

In addition, the FAA said it will consider future provisions that recognize the manufacturer’s serial number as the unique identifier.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.