The FAA will require drone operators in the United States to display their registration numbers on the outside of their small UAVs starting on February 25, 2019. The new regulation revises an existing policy that allows drone owners to put a UAV's registration number inside of the device's battery compartment.

Drone operators in the US must register their aerial vehicle with the FAA, at which time they're given a registration number. Since launching the registration requirement, the FAA has permitted drone owners to conceal their identifier within an enclosed compartment on the drone, assuming the compartment could be opened without using tools.

This permission aimed to 'grant flexibility to the diverse types of small unmanned aircraft commercially available.' However, an interim final rule published on the Federal Register today notes that the FAA has revised that permission and, starting on February 25, will require the registration number to be located on the drone's exterior.

According to the FAA, it has revised its rule due to government security agency and law enforcement concerns that explosive devices could be hidden within small drones. In a situation like this, first responders who are required to open a drone's battery compartment in search of the registration number are at risk of injury.

The new interim rule states:

Requiring small unmanned aircraft owners to place the registration number on an external surface of the aircraft helps to mitigate this risk because a first responder can view the number without handling the aircraft, or by using other technologies that allow for remote viewing of the aircraft's external surface.

The rule change goes into effect on February 25, but the public is able to submit comments on the new requirement until March 15. Comments can be submitted using the Regulations.gov website or by mail and hand delivery to the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC.