WASHINGTON Nearly 300,000 recreational drone owners have registered their unmanned aircraft in a new federal database intended to help address a surge of rogue drone flights near airports and public venues, U.S. regulators said on Friday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said 295,306 owners registered in the 30-day period after the registry was launched on Dec. 21 and obtained an FAA identification number that must be displayed on their aircraft.
It was not clear how many drones had been registered. The registration applies to drones that weigh between 0.55 pound (250 grams) and 55 pounds (25 kgs).
Experts have said 700,000 to 1 million unmanned aircraft were expected to be given as gifts in the United States last Christmas alone. People who operated their small unmanned aircraft before Dec. 21 must register by Feb. 19.
Owners who registered during the first month had the $5 fee reimbursed.
"The registration numbers we’re seeing so far are very encouraging," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.
Federal officials see online registration as a way to address the safety concerns that have arisen as a result of unauthorized drone flights near airports and crowded public venues across the country.
The current system is available only to owners who intend to use drones exclusively for recreational or hobby purposes. The FAA is also working to make the system available for non-model aircraft users including commercial operators by March 21.
Officials say the agency is also working with the private sector to streamline registration including through the use of new smart phone apps that could allow a manufacturer or retailer to register a drone automatically by scanning an identification code on the aircraft.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Paul Simao)