FAA: Drone owners now outnumber planes and helicopters

WASHINGTON — The number of registered drone owners has surpassed the number of registered airplanes and helicopters, the Federal Aviation Administration says.

Almost 460,000 drone owners have registered with the FAA. Drone owners only have to register once, so it’s likely there are far more unmanned aircraft, reports The Baltimore Sun.

The FAA’s main aircraft data base includes about 315,000 planes and copters.

Just before Christmas in 2015, the FAA required any drone pilot or model aircraft owner with a vehicle weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds to register with the agency.

In Maryland there are 9,259 drone owners, according to The Sun.

The largest numbers of drone owners are in the Baltimore and D.C. suburbs.

By ZIP code, Pasadena, Maryland, has the greatest number of drone pilots, with 148. Many drone owners also live in southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, where testing of the unmanned aircraft systems is centered.

Only 159 drone owners in Maryland registered as “non-hobbyist” users, in large part because codifying commercial use rules has lagged.

The Washington metropolitan area has the most stringent rules restricting drone usage.

Unmanned flights are forbidden within a 15-mile radius of Reagan National Airport, meaning it’s illegal to operate a drone within the Beltway.

Between 15 and 30 miles, drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, fly below 400 feet within the pilot’s line of sight, and steer clear of any airport by at least 5 miles.

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