The US government has taken the first steps to monitoring and controlling the growing mass of civilian drone hobbyists with the launch of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) drone database.

The database, which got up and running on 21 December, before the seasonal surge in drone numbers brought on by holiday giving, means owners of small unmanned aircraft will have to register their flying drones or face sizeable fines, or even jail time for the worst offenders.

Authorities around the world have been coming to terms with the rise of drone use and their implications both for privacy and air safety, especially above populated areas. International observers will no doubt keep a close eye on the progress of the FAA’s efforts to keep tabs on drones and their owners, as other nations develop cohesive regulations.

The FAA says that any drone weighing in at more than 250g and less than 25kg has to register on the new database before taking to the air. Anything heavier than 25kg has to register as an aircraft. Registrants have to be at least 13 years-old while each drone will be issued with a unique identification number and ownership certificate. The process is likely to develop into a massive administrative undertaking, with some 45,000 drones being entered onto the database by users in just the first few days of registrations going live.

While this policy covers civilian hobbyists, those using drones for commercial purposes will have to wait a bit longer to see what their requirements will look like. Commercial registration is expected to be released by the FAA in the first half of 2016.