An FAQ on FAA registrations and more

Here are some answers to common questions about federal rules for everyone from hobbyists to professional photographers.

Q: Do I need to register my drone with the Federal Aviation Administration?

A: Yes. Any drone that weighs more than.55 pounds must be registered with the FAA, which means pretty much all drones.

Q: Can I register my drone online?

A: Yes, visit:

Q: If my drone weighs more than 55 pounds, can I still register with the FAA online?

A: No. Registering such heavyweights requires a filing by paper. Information about how to do that is available at this FAA link:

Q: What happens if I don’t register my drone with the federal government?

A: “You will be subject to civil and criminal penalties if you meet the criteria to register an unmanned aircraft and do not register,” according to the FAA’s website.

Q: Which means what, exactly?

A: Failure to register a drone can lead to civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties can mean fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to three years, according to the FAA.

Q: How do I contact the FAA with registration questions or problems?

A: By email at or by phone at 877-396-4636.

Q: What’s this about needing a pilot’s license to fly a drone? Is that true?

A: Kind of true. Hobbyists don’t need a license to operate a drone– but, of course, they must operate within the law, such as avoiding airports.

The rules are different for those who use drones professionally, such as photographers capturing images of Realtors’ listings, or farmers using drones to check on crops.

Under FAA regulations that took effect Aug. 29, 2016 under the drone rule– known as Part 107– such drone operators must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. To receive a Remote Pilot Certificate, you must pass an Aeronautical Knowledge Test administered at an FAA-approved testing center, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.

Q: Are there any FAA-approved testing centers to take the Aeronautical Knowledge Test in Western Massachusetts?

A: There are. According to a list of such locations around the country provided by the FAA communications office, there are locations in Westfield and Northampton:

Westfield Flight Academy, 111 Airport Road, 413-568-5800;
Northampton Aeronautics Inc., 160 Old Ferry Road, 413-584-7980.
Q: How much does it cost to get a remote pilot certificate?

A: Testing centers charge about $150, according to the FAA.

Q: Having to visit an FAA-approved testing center to get a Remote Pilot Certificate seems like a hassle– but is it true the process used to be even more complicated?

A: Yes. Before the new FAA drone rules took effect Aug. 29 professional drone users had to obtain a pilot’s license. The update has made it faster and simpler for such drone operators to get flying, Peters said.

Q: So I take the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. Do I get the Remote Pilot Certificate the same day?

A: That’s unclear. According to the FAA: “It may take up to 48 hours for the website to record you passed the test. We expect to validate applications within 10 days. You will then receive instructions for printing a temporary airman certificate, which is good for 120 days. We will mail you a permanent Remote Pilot Certificate within 120 days.”

Q: What if I fail the Aeronautical Knowledge Test? Can I retake the test?

A: You can retake the test after 14 days.

Q: How do I know where it is OK to fly a drone, and where it is not OK to fly?

A: The FAA has developed a free smartphone app called B4UFLY to help drone operators know whether there are any requirements or restrictions where they want to fly. For additional guidance, visit the FAA’s “Where to Fly” page

Q: Can media outlets use drones equipped with cameras to gather news?

A: Freedom of the press is a foundation of the republic, as solidified in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While the media can use drones in carrying out coverage, conditions apply. Unless granted a previous exemption, news outlets under the new drone rules can request a waiver to permit the flying of drones over people– but they must show steps are being taken to ensure public safety, the FAA said.

Q: Where’s my stuff? That is: Does the FAA permit package delivery by drone?

A: Technically, yes– but practically, not really, yet (sorry, Amazon and UPS). The new drone rules that took effect Aug. 29 supposedly permit the use of drones to deliver packages, but only if certain requirements are met. The operator must maintain visual line of sight with the drone, and such transport is limited to “wholly within the bounds of a state.” That pretty much thwarts the speed and distance capabilities of drones. And perhaps with good cause, since public safety issues related to the prospect of numerous package-toting drones buzzing around the skies at differing elevations have yet to be worked out.

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