Laws on Registering a Recreational Drone in Nevada
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers

When do I need to register a drone in Nevada?

Under federal law, drones are considered “aircraft” of the United States. As such, they are subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

On August 29, 2016, the FAA's Rule for “small unmanned aircraft systems” (UAS) came into effect. Under these rules, you are required to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unless it weighs less than .55 pounds (250 grams), about the weight of two sticks of butter. 

Drones must be registered whether they are purchased or homemade, and whether they are tethered or untethered. However, if the drone will only be used indoors, registration is not necessary.

The penalty for failure to register a drone is usually an FAA fine of up to $27,500. However, if you fly an unregistered drone in an unsafe manner, your failure to register could also result in criminal penalties that can include:

  • Up to 3 years in federal prison, and/or
  • A fine of up to $250,000.

To help you better understand the law on the registration of drones in Nevada, our Reno and Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers discuss the following:

Also see our article on the Nevada crime of weaponizing a drone (NRS 493.106).

1. How is the weight of a drone measured?

Most "toy" drones that cost $100 or less weigh less than .55 pounds. For your convenience, the FAA maintains a list of drones that require registration. While the list is updated daily, it might not contain every drone on the market. It is your responsibility to know the weight of your drone, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft on takeoff.

This means that if you add a camera or anything else to your unmanned aircraft and as a result, it weighs .55 pounds or more, you are required to register it even if it is not on the list or weighs less than .55 when unloaded.

Drones that weigh more than 55 pounds are illegal, unless certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program.

2. Who can / must register a drone?

As of the end of 2016, to register your drone you must be a U.S. citizen who is 13 years of age or older. If you are under 13, a person who is at least 13 must register the unmanned aircraft.

The easiest way to register if you are an individual is online at the FAA's drone registration page. It takes less than 5 minutes to register online and there is a one-time fee of $5. Once you are in the system, you can add additional drones at no cost.

The online system does not yet support registration of small UAS used by businesses and other entities. For now, businesses must continue to register using the current paper-based FAA Aircraft Registration System.

Additionally, you do not need to register again if you previously registered with the FAA's legacy aircraft registry in Oklahoma City, OK. However, owners who register under the new system will be able to access records for all their registered aircraft online.

Note that the commercial use of drones is subject to the more stringent registration requirements of 14 C.F.R. Part 107. if you register your small UAS online and later decide to use your drone commercially, you will need to re-register and provide aircraft specific information.

3. Is my drone recreational?

Your drone is recreational if it is flown solely for hobby or recreational purposes and within the visual line of sight of the person operating it.

If you use your drone for any commercial purpose, no matter how minor, you run the risk of your drone losing recreational status. Commercial uses include (but are not limited to):

  • Delivery of goods;
  • Being paid by someone else to take photos or video from your drone;
  • Selling photos or video you took using a drone;  or
  • Using photos or video from your drone in connection with a business (e.g., news reporting, rooftop inspections or aerial photography).

4. Do I need to have my FAA drone registration certificate with me?

After you register your drone, the FAA will send you a certificate. You are required to have your FAA registration certificate in your possession (either physically or electronically) when operating your unmanned aircraft.

You must also place the registration number legibly on your drone in a place in which it can easily be seen. The battery compartment is acceptable as long as it can be accessed without the use of tools.

5. Do I need to register if I fly under Part 107?

You do not need to register separately if you fly in accordance with 14 C.F.R. Part 107. Part 107 requires operators to:

  • Obtain a remote pilot certificate or be under the direct supervision of someone who holds such a certificate;
  • Register the aircraft as a non-modeler at; and
  • Follow all the operating rules in accordance with the regulation.

6. Penalty for failure to register a drone

Failure to register a drone can subject you to an FAA fine of up to $27,500.

It can also potentially subject you to federal criminal penalties including a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment up to 3 years in federal prison. 

As a practical matter, however, unless your use was considered dangerous, a first-time violation will usually subject you to a fine of not more than a few thousand dollars. However, FAA fines have been somewhat arbitrary. When weighed against the possibility of even $1,000-$2,000 in fines, it seems well worth the time and $5 fee to register your drone.

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been charged with a drone-related crime under federal or Nevada law, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our caring Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada criminal lawyers defend clients throughout Nevada on drone-related charges.

We know that most drone-related crimes occur because the laws on drones are new and people are simply unfamiliar with them. As experienced criminal lawyers, we will fight to get your drone charges reduced or even dismissed.

To schedule your free consultation call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) or simply fill out the convenient form on this page.

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