The Federal Aviation Administration’s new registration requirement for hobbyists who use small airborne drones for recreation also has good news for engineering and construction firms that use such aircraft for business purposes—a fast on-line registration system that should be in place early next year.

The FAA and its parent, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, announced on Dec. 14, that they will require owners of small, recreational-use unmanned aircraft to register those devices by Feb. 19, for a fee of five dollars.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters in a conference call that registration would be required for unmanned aircraft that range from 0.55 lbs. to 55 lbs. The online registration system for hobbyist-personal use drones will be in place on Dec. 21.

To encourage people to sign up, FAA will refund fees for registrations filed in the program’s first 30 days.

Michael Whitaker, FAA deputy administrator, said an identification number must be put on the aircraft. He also said that an owner of multiple drones would only have to buy one registration to cover all of them.

A new online registration for commercial drones should be in place next spring, FAA also said. John Perry, CEO of Altavian, a Gainesville, Fla., firm that provides drones to collect data for construction and other industries, says, “On the commercial side, this really streamlines that [registration] process and reduces the regulatory burden.”

At present, “It’s a paper-based process” that requires notarized documents from the maker of the aircraft, says Perry. He says of the new system “It’s a significant improvement.”

Perry represented the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Services (MAPPS) on the FAA task force that drew up drone registration recommendations. MAPPS members are in surveying, mapping, geospatial services and other industries.

“A lot of new applications are coming on line,” Perry says. “This is fulfilling the traditional surveying and mapping requirements, everything from environmental surveys, topography and volumetric surveys [and} expanding in inspection-related services.

Drone use in surveying, engineering and construction is “dramatically rising,” he says.  “From the first authorizations a little over a year ago to now, we’ve seen well over 2,000 different operators come into the market. And they are offering a range of services that are really touching every part of that engineering and civil works industry.”

He said FAA has “a broad spectrum of options available” to enforce the regulation, including civil penalties of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and three years’ prison time.

Owner who are at least 13 years old will be required to register. Whitaker said that the agency anticipates that parents would be the registrants for those younger than 13.