Editor’s Note: Drones, especially those carry GoPro and other action cameras, have become increasingly popular in the past couple of years. Admittedly, our video production department has them, and use them to great effect. That being said, the skies are becoming more and more crowded, and the number of incidents involving drones and manned aircraft is on the rise, creating a dangerous scenario for all involved. The original article on mandatory UAS registration an be viewed here.

The number of drones potentially flying in U.S. skies has eclipsed the number of piloted aircraft — from Cessnas to Dreamliners, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.

More than 325,000 people registered their drones as of Friday, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. That surpasses the 320,000 piloted aircraft registered with the agency. And the numbers could actually be higher, Huerta said, because one registration covers all the drones a person owns. The average operator has 1.5 drones, he said.

The registration numbers show the surging popularity of remote-controlled aircraft, which are flooding airspace already packed with passenger planes and leading to concerns over midair collisions. About 7,000 planes fly in U.S. skies any time during the day, according to the FAA, along with an untold number of drones.

The FAA began the registration program Dec. 21 to address these safety concerns. All drones owned before then must be registered by Feb. 19. New ones must be registered before the first flight. The rules apply to nearly all owners of remote-controlled aircraft weighing at least 9 ounces.

Drones like this DJI Inspire 1 are becoming inrceasingly popular, and for good reason--but present a real threat to manned aircraft operations. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Drones like this DJI Inspire 1 are becoming inrceasingly popular, and for good reason–but present a real threat to manned aircraft operations. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

The FAA receives about 100 reports per month from aircraft pilots who say they spotted drones flying near them, but the remote-controlled aircraft can be difficult to trace.

With registration, the FAA can  track down operators flying dangerously or after a crash. The agency has opened 24 investigations into unsafe or illegal drone operations, Huerta said.

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“We won’t hesitate to take strong enforcement actions against anyone who flies unmanned aircraft in an unsafe or illegal manner,” Huerta said.

Chesley Sullenberger, the retired US Airways captain who landed a jet on the Hudson River after geese knocked out both of the plane’s engines, has warned about the need to prevent drones from colliding with airliners.

“The sheer numbers concern me, as they increase the risk of a collision and it is likely that the actual number of drones is much greater than the number registered,” Sullenberger said.

(Featured photo courtesy of Fortune.com)