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America demands drone licenses

If you want to fly a quadcopter outdoors in America, you must now license it, under rules that take effect today. The Federal Aviation Administration says drones weighing 0.55-55lb (0.25-25kg) must be added to an online database by February 19th; a three-year licence costs $5, but signing up is free until January 20th.


Drones must display a registration number and be kept at least five miles (8km) from airports and below 400 feet (120 metres)—an altitude most small devices cannot reach anyway. But although the FAA understandably wants to reduce the risk of collisions with larger aircraft, its new rules will require the registration of hundreds of thousands of toys—and its suggestion that penalties for failing to register should be the same for drones as for commercial aircraft seems heavy-handed. Manufacturers are hoping to sell 1.6m drones in America this year. This is not what they wanted for Christmas.

First publish on The Economist Espresso.

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