The US' brief period of registration-free drone flight is over -- President Trump has signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018, and it revives the registration requirement for civilian drones. Robotic fliers between 0.5lbs and 55lbs need to be submitted to a database if they're going to remain legal. A Washington, DC appeals court had struck down the FAA's original requirement in May, arguing that it didn't have the authority to regulate model aircraft, but that clearly wasn't a deterrent. The FAA had said it would rethink its approach to the regulation after its earlier defeat.
Naturally, the FAA is slightly giddy. In a statement to TechCrunch, the agency welcomed the return of registration arguing that it helped "promote safe and responsible drone operation."
The change is going to cause some short-term chaos, since the FAA had already started returning the $5 registration fee. Will you have to re-register if you did before? What if you haven't had your money refunded yet? It'll definitely be a bit of a hassle to register a tiny personal drone just so that you can fly around the local park. At the same time, it's not hard to understand why the FAA would push to keep registration. Drone activity around airports and other areas are quickly becoming overwhelming and could increase the odds of collisions -- in theory, at least, registrations keep owners accountable and might discourage them from trying something dangerous.