More than 616,000 drones – otherwise known as unmanned aircraft – were registered last year under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) registration system – which became web-based on Dec. 21. Drones received as Christmas presents may contribute to significant registration numbers in January.

The reason for registration? The FAA wants to make sure that drone owners have some basic aviation knowledge. The rule requiring owners of small unmanned aircraft weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms) to register their drones is  primarily aimed at the thousands of drone hobbyists who had little or no experience with the U.S. aviation system.

By making drone owners feel as if they are part of the aviation community -- and encouraging them to see themselves as pilots – the FAA hopes to reduce the number of incidents and near-misses involving drones and manned aircraft that occur in U.S. airspace.

The FAA developed the web-based registration system to make the process easier for first-time users compared with the traditional paper-based “N-number” system. Then and now, hobbyists pay a $5.00 fee and receive a single identification number for all the drones they own.

Commercial, public and other non-model aircraft operators had to use the paper-based registration system until March 31, 2016, when the FAA expanded the system to non-hobbyists.

The automated system has had one other benefit. Several times, the agency has used the system to send out important safety messages to everyone who registered.

Watch the video: Today is the One-Year Anniversary of the FAA’s Drone Registry