This month, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (“RILA”) submitted comments to the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) opposing a point-of-sale registration requirement for recreational drones. While the trade association generally supports the registration of drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems, RILA called the point-of-sale registration process “costly, inefficient, and difficult to implement” while warning of potential data privacy concerns for consumers.

The comments were in response to the release of an FAA Interim Final Rulemaking in December called Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft, 80 Fed. Reg. 78594. As the rule currently stands, registration is mandatory before the first time a drone is used outdoors. Drone owners are required to register their drones for a $5 fee, which will result in a Certificate of Aircraft Registration and Proof of Ownership. The registration also will include an identification number which owners are required to mark on their drones. Existing drone owners must register their drones on the FAA website by February 19th, 2016.

The FAA’s Federal Register Notice asked for public comments about a number of potential changes to its drone registration process. RILA’s comment expressed the group’s preference for maintaining the current prior-to-operation registration requirements as opposed to a point-of-sale registration requirement. RILA’s comment stated that a point-of-sale registration process would shift costs to retailers, who would need to collect, store and transfer personal customer data to the FAA, while creating privacy concerns for consumers. In addition, RILA pointed out an inherent problem with point-of-sale drone registration: customers purchasing drones as gifts for others would make the process more confusing for both the purchaser and the end user.

The FAA Interim Final Rulemaking was implemented only days before Christmas 2015, during the peak holiday shopping season, and the FAA chose to carry out the more expedient option of a prior-to-operation registration mandate in order to facilitate drone registration during a busy retail period. However, the Interim Final Rule Notice in the Federal Register did indicate the FAA’s strong willingness to consider a point-of-sale registration requirement.