Flying drone with camera
Photogtaph by Buena Vista Images — Getty Images
By Jonathan Vanian
January 20, 2016

Today is your last chance to register your drone with the federal government for free.

Starting Thursday, hobbyists who register flying robots with the Federal Aviation Administration’s new system will be unable to claim a $5 rebate.

People who fail to register their drones with the government by Feb. 19 face civil penalties of up to $27,500. Criminal violations could result in penalties as high as $250,000 in addition to three-year prison sentences.

In December, the FAA opened the drone registration system as a way to better track bad actors who may fly their drones in unsafe places like airports or packed stadiums. Initially, it offered a temporary rebate to cover registration costs as an incentive to get the process off to a quick start.

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The decision to charge a registration fee was a sore spot for some drone advocacy and retail groups that argued the fees would discourage people from buying the devices. However, the FAA claimed that it was legally required to charge a fee for delivering a service.

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As of early January, consumers have registered over 181,000 drones. The requirement applies to owners of drones that weigh from just over half a pound to 55 pounds. People with drones that are heavier than 55 pounds and plan on using it outside the U.S. must register by mail.

For more information on how to register, check out the FAA’s website.

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