The Federal Aviation Administrations requires that drone pilots in the U.S. to register their drones. It costs $5.
But if you register your drone through one of these ‘scam’ sites, it could cost you 40x that much.
Sites like FederalDroneRegistration.com and FAADroneZones.com pose as official FAA drone registration sites, but instead of charging you a $5 fee — they charge you as much as $200.
This screenshot from an attempt to register drones with FederalDroneRegistration charges users $24.99 to register a DJI Inspire drone. For $49.99, users have the option to get FAA labels and an ID card as well. This option from the same site includes a business package and online training platform access as well, for a hefty $199. Another site, FAADroneZones.com charges users $59.99 to register one drone, and $99.99 to register up to five drones through them.
Most of the sites do provide a legitimate registration number. But in doing so, you pay them $200, give them your personal data. From there, the site administrators pay the $5 fee to the FAA to generate the same registration card that you could have done yourself for a fraction of the cost — and without giving your data to an unknown entity — and they pocket the other $195.
Many of the sites posing as the FAA also charge one fee to register one drone, and a higher fee to register multiple drones. The official $5 registration fee that drone owners must pay to the FAA covers all drones that they own.
Most of the “fake” sites do have fine print stating they are not actually affiliated with the FAA.
But while astute readers who look at the fine print may catch onto the scam, many people don’t realize it’s a fake site — until it’s too late.
Other sites, such as FederalDroneRegistration.com, justify their massive fees by stating that they were “created to help simplify the FAA’s drone registration process and break through the clutter of what is required to register.”
The thing is, it’s ridiculously easy to register with the FAA. Simply visit the FAA’s official website, input basic information like your name and address, pay the $5 fee, and you’ll instantly receive a personal identification number and certificate to print out. By the time you entered your credit card number, the entire process takes somewhere between two and three minutes.
The FAA has issued their own warnings about these sites.
“Some attempt to mimic the look of the FAA’s website with similar graphic design and even the FAA logo, or suggest they are somehow “approved” by the agency,” according to a statement by the FAA. “They aren’t – and you could be wasting your money.”
To be fair to the scam sites, there is one point of confusion around drone registration — but it’s not about actually registering your drone. It’s about whether or not you even have to register.
U.S. rules around whether or not you need to register have flip-flopped multiple times.
Under current law, all drones that weigh more than 0.55 pounds are required to be registered through the FAA. Registration was originally required under the FAA’s small drone registration rule effective December 21, 2015. That rule was overturned by a court decision in May 2017, however the rule was again reinstated in December 2017 via the National Defense Authorization Act.
To date, it is required that all pilots register. Just don’t pay more than $5 to do it.
“We strongly advise you to avoid registering your unmanned aircraft anywhere but at the FAA Drone Zone,” according to a statement by the FAA. “It’s the only way to make sure your drone is legally registered and that you’ve gotten your money’s worth.”
The FAA says that there are now more than one million drones registered in the U.S.