What Happens if I Don’t Register my drone?

Beth Huston Profile image

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Updated June 27, 2022

All UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), including the best drones, must be adequately registered with the U.S. government. This might have you wondering, “What happens if I don’t register my drone?”


  • There can be criminal and civil penalties for not registering your drone, and the fines can get pretty hefty.
  • It is straightforward to register a drone if you know what you’re doing. You can do so by mail or online, depending on your drone.
  • You’ll need your remote pilot registration certificate showing that you can fly a drone and understand drone safety.

As it turns out, some pretty nasty stuff can happen. Keep reading to learn more about the consequences of not registering and how to avoid those consequences.

The Consequences of an Unregistered Drone

There are a few consequences for not registering your drone if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs. Commercial drone pilots will also need to renew their drone licenses to stay within compliance.

If you’re looking to get a remote pilot certificate for commercial reasons, you’ll need a Part 107 drone license. Recreational users still have to take the FAA’s certification course but don’t require the Part 107 license.

Civil and Criminal Penalties

Unfortunately, failing to register an unmanned aircraft can land you in pretty hot water. In fact, you can face federal penalties of up to $250,000 if you’re found guilty of a crime. Civil penalties alone can run upwards of $27,500.

Either way, it’s not worth the risk, so ensure that your UAV is registered correctly. For more information, look into what the laws are on drones.

Insider Tip

Use a strip of duct tape and a permanent marker to label your drone with your name and number if it ever crashes and you can’t recover it.

The Drone Registration Process

The process for registering your drone isn’t all too complicated. It just takes a few pieces of information, and you’ll be well on your way to having proof of registration.

Registration Requirements

Only permanent residents of the US can register a drone, and you’ll need to gather some information beforehand:

  • Your physical address
  • Your mailing address
  • A valid email address
  • Your remote pilot certificate

There are a few pieces of information in addition to this, but that’s the main portion.

Make sure that you’re following all drone regulations, as well. That’s an essential part of working with unmanned aircraft systems, especially for commercial purposes.

Pay the Registration Fee

You can use your debit card to pay the fee online, valid for three years. This is only $5 per drone, so it’s incredibly reasonable.

Register Your Drone Online or by Mail

There are a few legal requirements when it comes to how you can register. If your drone is under fifty-five pounds, you can do so online.

If you fall above that weight class, you must register by mail. If you’re looking for more information on this topic, look into our article on what size drone requires registration.


If your drone weighs more than 0.55 lbs, you must register it to avoid heavy federal and civil fines.


Does a drone need to be registered for recreational purposes?

All drone owners must register their drones. The only exception is toy drones weighing under 0.55 pounds. Drone operators must follow this law, or they can incur steep fines and penalties.

Do drone manufacturers offer a great warranty?

That depends on the type of drone you’re looking to purchase and the individual brand. Make sure your recreational drone has a warranty just in case an accident happens.

What is a manned aircraft?

Manned aircraft is a big reason why recreational drone pilots must adhere to strict regulations regarding national airspace. These are planes, helicopters, and other aircraft driven by a pilot inside of them.

Is there a weight limit on drones for registration?

If your recreational drone is under 0.55 pounds, it does not need a registration certificate. Many consumer drones are built to weigh just under that threshold.

STAT: The number of drones in the U.S. for recreational flying has reached around 853.8 thousand units. (source)

Beth Huston Profile image