- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

More than 181,000 drones have been registered with the federal government since a national unmanned aircraft database was launched Dec. 21, according to the head of the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We’re encouraged by the registration numbers we’re seeing so far,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta as he divulged the latest registration statistics at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “But this is just the beginning. Now that we have set up the registration system, our challenge is to make sure everyone is aware of the requirement and registers.”

Current drone owners have until Feb. 19 to register their aircraft while new buyers are required to register before taking a drone for a first flight. All owners of unmanned aircraft weighing more than 250 grams are required to pay a $5 registration fee - though all of those who register before Jan. 20 will be refunded. A registration number must be displayed on the drone so that authorities can track down the owner if the drone gets lost or gets into trouble and users are required to have registration papers on them when flying the devices.

News about the status of the registrations comes after the holiday season, during which drones were expected to be a big sales item.

Mr. Huerta said the FAA has also authorized more than 3,000 commercial drone operators that require special permission to fly for tasks such as aerial photography or land surveying.

During his presentation, Mr. Huerta also announced the FAA’s release of the Know Before You Fly or B4UFLY smart-phone application. The app, available for Apple devices, warms users of current or upcoming drone flight restrictions in their area. An Android version of the app is still in the testing phase, but the Apple version was made available for free download on Wednesday.

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