The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced an online registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) as part of its process of making registration of UAS mandatory,

The FAA specified in its guidelines that any owner of a small UAS, who previously operated an unmanned aircraft or drone exclusively as a model aircraft before 21 December have to register their UAS by 19 February next year.

Owners who have bought any other UAS for use as a model aircraft after 21 December have to register their aircraft before taking its first flight outside.

The guideline will be applicable to UAS that weigh more than 250g and less than 25kg with payloads, including onboard cameras.

Owners can also use a paper-based process.

US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said: "Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility.

"Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.

"I am excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation."

"Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely."

The registration process includes a majority of the suggestions provided by the task force, which was formed to provide recommendations.

In November, the task force delivered its recommendations to FAA administrator Michael Huerta and Anthony Foxx.

On completion of the registration process, a unique identification number will be given to the owner for marking their respective aircraft.

Recreational UAS owners need to go through the registration process once and can use the unique identification number for all of their models. The registration has three years of validity.

The FAA is waiving the usual registration fee of $5 for the first 30 days from 21 December to 21 January.

Michael Huerta said: "We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season.

"Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly."

The agency is also developing an online registration process for small types of UAS, used for any purpose besides hobby or recreation. The process is expected to be launched next year.