Regulators passed a rule Monday requiring all owners of drones and other types of small unmanned aircraft that are used for recreation to register with the Federal Aviation Administration by Feb. 19.

“Make no mistake: Unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement released by the FAA. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”

The rule applies to all owners of small unmanned aircraft weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, carrying payloads that include things such as on-board cameras. The registration includes a $5 fee that is being waived through Jan. 21 to encourage compliance.

The FAA wanted to launch the registration process in anticipation of the purchase of millions of drones for holiday gift-giving. The registration, which can be done online, is part of a set of recommendations delivered by a special FAA task force in November.

“It has become a very popular Christmas present, especially for those people who want to take photographs from the air,” said Burt Dumond, co-owner of Ray and Robin’s Hobby Center in West Falmouth.

Dumond says his store has sold dozens of drones and most buyers are unaware of the new rule, which is why his staff has started handing out letters with each purchase that explain the impact it will have. The letter was drafted by Daniel Jockett, an aviation safety inspector for the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office at the Portland International Jetport.

“Congratulations on the purchase of your unmanned aircraft system (UAS)!! With the purchase of your aircraft comes a responsibility to operate it safely,” Jockett’s letter states.

The letter directs consumers to websites that explain each operator’s role in making sure their drone is operated safely: and

“The reaction has been kind of 50-50,” Dumond said of the new federal registration rule. “But most people realize that it’s no worse than registering your snowmobile. It’s just another way to hold people accountable.”

Peter McLaughlin of Benton was in Ray and Robin’s Hobby Center on Monday evening, searching for a Christmas gift for his grandson. He settled on the purchase of two Dromina Ominus quadcopters.

McLaughlin said he had never heard anything about the federal registration rule, but learned after speaking with Dumond that he would not be affected. The lightweight quadcopters, which weigh under 8 ounces, don’t meet the weight registration requirement, Dumond said.

As for buying drones as a Christmas present, McLaughlin isn’t as intrigued by the technology as some people.

“He’s my grandson. He’s got to have something to play with,” McLaughlin said.

The online registration is part of a set of recommendations delivered by a special FAA task force in November.

Dumond demonstrated how little effort it takes to operate a battery-powered drone. Standing in the parking lot outside his shop, he flew a drone that resembled the Enterprise from the “Star Trek” television series, hovering it several feet above the ground with its red and green lights flashing before bringing it in for a soft landing.

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The new technology making drones available to the general public has caused concern for federal officials.

During a hearing on drones held in October by a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said regulators must strike a balance between legitimate uses by responsible drone owners and “dangerous intrusions caused by irresponsible operators.” Collins, who chairs the subcommittee, said she is particularly worried about “rogue” drones that could interfere with aircraft.

According to the FAA, there were 764 possible encounters with unmanned aircraft reported by pilots or airport personnel from November 2014 to August 2015.

Registration is a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft. Under the new rule, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft before Dec. 21 must register no later than Feb. 19.

Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after Dec. 21 must register before the first flight outdoors. Owners may use either the paper-based process or the Web-based system at Online registrations must be completed by people 13 years or older.

The online registration system does not yet support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation – for example, in connection with a business. The FAA is developing the ability to allow such online registrations by spring 2016.