Owners of recreational drones must start registering them later this month, the Federal Aviation Administration announced on Monday.
"We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.
Drones bought after Dec. 21 must be registered before the first flight outdoors, according to the new rule from the FAA. Those bought earlier must be registered no later than Feb. 19, 2016.
The regulation applies to small, unmanned aircraft weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds including cameras and other items onboard. Any drone operator who fails to register could face a potential fine of up to $250,000.
"Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely."
The new rule incorporates many of the recommendations made by the Registration Task Force made on Nov. 21.
Owners can register on paper or if they are at least 13 years old, online at www.faa.gov/usas/registration/. The same identification number can be used for all of an owner’s drones.
Registrations are valid for three years. The normal fee is $5 but it is being waived for the first 30 days to encourage as many people to register quickly.
Is all this too invasive? Christopher Kitts, director of Santa Clara University’s Robotic Systems Laboratory, doesn’t think so. "Quite frankly, for something that can do damage, it's mostly in line with what we do on a daily basis."
The new rule applies only to recreational drones. The FAA expects to begin registering commercial drones by the spring.