Drone enthusiasts enter new year with new rules

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Drone enthusiasts entered a new year with new rules.

The Federal Aviation Administration now requires those who own small unmanned aircraft to register them. The hobbyists who gather at Clovis Community College every Sunday to fly their small planes, helicopters and drones know what they're doing.

So, the FAA's new law, which is designed to increase accountability and responsibility of users, is probably not targeted at them. "If everybody was responsible, we wouldn't need this," said Chris Geiger.

Owners of unmanned aircraft systems weighing between .55 pounds and 55 pounds have until February 19 to register them on the FAA's website. Once they register, they can use the same registration number they're given for all of their aircraft.

It costs $5, is valid for three years and Geiger says it took him just 10 minutes to do. "I don't mind it," Geiger said. "I think it's a little silly but I also think we've seen some scary activities with people flying way too close to airports and to full-size airplanes."

A drone nearly hit a SkyLife helicopter two miles from Fresno Yosemite International Airport last summer. Federal law already requires drones and other UAS' to fly five miles away from any airport and below 400 feet.

The FAA says registration will ensure safety for everyone. But Tim Tomlinson doesn't really believe that. "I don't really see the benefit of bringing that type of regulation into this field," Tomlinson said. "I don't see how it's going to somehow improve the safety of the sport."

Tomlinson is familiar with FAA rules and regulations-he flew corporate jets for decades. And though he says he'll play by the rules and register his machines, he just doesn't get the point. "I just see it as more government entanglement in our private lives which I think is already too much," Tomlinson said.

Owners who flew drones prior to December 21 of 2015 have until February 19 to register. If you bought one after that, you have to register before you fly it. If you don't register, you could face criminal or civil consequences.
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