More drones are now registered with the federal government than piloted aircraft, marking a major milestone in aviation history.
Over 325,000 people have registered their flying robots with the Federal Aviation Administration’s new drone registration system, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at a drone-related conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday. That number tops the 320,000 piloted aircraft registrations the FAA has on file, he said, according to a USA Today report.
In early January, just weeks after the FAA’s drone registration system opened on Dec. 21, the FAA had just 181,000 drone registrations.
This rise in the number of registrations shows that many people are racing to meet a Feb. 19 deadline to do so. Failure to register could result in civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to three years in prison.
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The FAA has maintained that it created the drone registration system to combat the illegal use of drones, like the pilot who crash landed a drone during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in September. Drone advocacy groups have argued that the registration system and its $5 dollar fee could deter people from buying drones.
Huerta said that the FAA has opened 24 cases against operators who have unsafely or illegally flown drones, the USA Today report said.
“We won’t hesitate to take strong enforcement actions against anyone who flies unmanned aircraft in an unsafe or illegal manner," Huerta said.
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Last week, local law enforcement arrested a New Jersey man for crashing his drone into the Empire State Building. The man apparently lost control of his drone while using the aircraft to take photos, according to a local NBC news report. He is charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, the report said.