Like It or Not, Drone Licensing Is Coming


By Stephen Mann

What an outrageous proposal. How dare you propose drone hobbyists be licensed before they start flying?

This is the only way to save the hobby of personal drone flight. It’s the only way to protect the hobby from overreaching, confusing, conflicting and almost always illegal attempts by the government to regulate flight.

Licensing is going to happen. Just look at all the hysteria that surrounds every drone sighting. No sensation-seeking journalist or politician can pass that opportunity for grandstanding. This is why we should get ahead of them and propose reasonable licensing now before the politicians force very unreasonable licensing terms on us.

Ham radio is a good example of how this can work. Amateur Radio operators have been operating in an environment regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for decades using volunteer examiners (VE) to administer the tests for various Amateur Radio classes of licenses. 

The VE forwards the test materials to the FCC and, if the applicant passes, they receive their Amateur Radio license. VEs usually are members of ham radio clubs who also provide classes in radio theory and FCC rules. The FCC does not collect any fees for the Amateur Radio license, but the VE may charge a small fee for preparing and administering the test.

Read more here:

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • I think a valid comparison for licensing could be made with the vehicles we drive. Perhaps an extremely low powered beacon could be required to act as a license plate as well?

    However I agree that we already have enough laws to deal with the issues that come up, and it's the lack of common sense/education that people have when they first get their 'drone' that causes them to think the sky is wide open to do with what they please..

    Either a massive media campaign to "drone responsibly", or Drone Ed classes are needed to slow the flow of ignorance/stupid into the air. 

    Simple/cheap licensing could force some education. Enforcement would then be the issue..

  • What about having to register the drone to buy it or activate it? Can't buy or fly otherwise. Don't tell me that's not possible. Now for the DIYers out there, that's a different ballgame.

  • Brendan, I ask you again... Do you really think people who intend to use drones for illegal purposes are going to register it, license it, and make it traceable???  No.  And the only way an identification number would be visible to people on the ground is if the registration number was 5x the size of the aircraft itself.

  • New legislation for consumer drones is being proposed to enhance air safety. These new regulations would limit the flight capabilities of drones, putting limits on manufacturers so that their drones have built-in features to keep them operating within the rules. The other purpose of the new regulations is to give the FAA authority over consumer drones, closing the current loophole. 

    Text - S.1608 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Consumer Drone Safety Act
    Text for S.1608 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Consumer Drone Safety Act
  • And "The Sky is Falling!"

    Actually, in some ways Brendan is right drone licensing is coming, just not all "drones".

    Commercial drones are already being licensed and it is likely a lot more categories of commercial will be licensed as time goes on and the FAA figures out what is needed.

    But hobby drones, rc planes, quadcopters, etc, I sure hope not and so far it doesn't look like they are planning on doing so.

    But it would be a really good idea if all of us who actually do know what is safe and reasonable to do and what is not started telling the uninformed masses walking out of Walmart with their spiffy new "Phantom" what's what.

    If anything is going to screw us up, that's it.



  • I see what you're saying, and I'm not a fan of politicians, believe me. I like the UC Berkeley project developing a "license plate" of sorts.If you could track down a drone's operator based off the blinking pattern - or any other tracking system - maybe that would inhibit people from flying recklessly. Right now there's no way to connect a drone to its operator, right?

  • Brendan.  Please listen carefully.  There are already laws on all of this. Those laws are not being adhered to by a small minority of users.  Those laws are not enforced when people break them. Writing new laws is not the solution to laws that aren't being enforced.  That just makes new laws that say the same thing that also won't be enforced.  It is no different than idiot politicians yammering about making new gun laws rather than actually enforcing the law that already exists.  It's what politicians do.  Talk rather than act.

    Adding licenses and registrations does nothing but inhibit those of us that are already not breaking the law to begin with.  The people that plan to break the law are not going to register and license their 2lb plastic toy.  It's delusional.

    And yes, the media blows everything way out of proportion.  Their a business that sells advertising rights.  And to get people to see the advertising in commercials and websites, they need flashy headlines.  Fact and logic are irrelevant.

  • I think a very high percentage of the incidents in the news are made up, exaggerated, or mistaken. So no, it is not clear to me that the laws in place are failing.

  • "Alleging" that these incidents are happening is part of the problem, to me, Jonathan. So none of these incidents have happened, every one is being made up? Clearly the current "rules," "laws," "guidelines" or whatever they're called aren't doing enough to curtail reckless flying. You'll never stop ever knucklehead, but there's gotta be a better way to enforce things.

  • I tend to agree with Pedals here. Already plenty of laws that prevent the very behavior that the media is alleging is happening. A license doesn't change that, or improve it other than providing some meaningless card we carry around.

    That said, I would support a tiered license system that required some sort of certification for flights beyond line of sight.

This reply was deleted.