Feds Seek Recreational Drone Registration, Accountability
The federal government is finally doing something to tame and regulate recreational drone use, long after the explosion in popularity of casual consumer drones has created major safety issues in the sky.
Currently, there are guidelines on the books for flying aircraft set by the Federal Aviation Administration. For example, drone flights are not allowed to surpass an altitude of 400 feet and should not take place within five miles of an airport without permission. But as the Washington Post noted, recreational drone enthusiasts often break those rules, either out of ignorance of the law or pure carelessness, and officials have little at their disposal to punish offenders.
That will change soon, if the Department of Transportation's ambitious new regulation plans are implemented without a hitch. According to the L.A. Times, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced plans on Monday to require those who purchase or own recreational drones to register the vehicles with the federal government, applying the same rules that commercial drones currently operate under to the casual drone flyer.
The move began with the creation of a task force created by Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to develop recommendations for the registration process. The team will consist of 25 to 30 representatives from the unmanned and piloted aviation industries, as well as the federal government.
Making the announcement, Foxx was joined by representatives from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the Academy of Model Aircraft, the AirMap / Small UAV Coalition, the Airline Pilots Association, and similar stakeholders.
"Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system," said Foxx in a statement for the DOT's announcement. "It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground."
Citing a doubling of pilot sightings of unmanned vehicles in the past year, the FAA's Huerta stated, "These reports signal a troubling trend. Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly."
"When they don't fly safely, they'll know there will be consequences," he added.
Thanks to advances in technology that have flattened the skill level required to begin flying drones and dropped the cost of buying a personal UAV in the past years, sales of recreations drones have proliferated, growing by 63 percent in 2014, as the L.A. Times reported.
Making up for lost time, Foxx said he wanted the government to begin implementing a registration mandate by the end of the year. He gave the task force only one month, with a deadline on Nov. 20, to devise the registration process.
The group will first have to sort through many issues, such as what size drone is large enough to necessitate registration, where and when the registration process should come into play, and what system of identification can be used to discern a drone's registration number from hundreds of feet below.
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