Should domestic drones be registered with the federal government?
October 27, 2015
By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer
In mid-October, the Department of Transportation announced that it would require that all domestic drones be registered with the federal government.
The announcement came after scores of reports of near-misses between drones and commercial and carrier aircraft and police helicopters. Pilots have been sighting drones with increasing frequency, and they have been spotted at sporting events and other large gatherings.
Currently, only drones that are used in commercial activities have to be registered with the Department of Transportation. That means that the drone Amazon is testing to deliver goods to your doorstep will have to be registered with the government, but your neighbor’s quadcopter needs no documentation. This will soon change.
Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at a press conference that the reason for the registration requirement is safety. Drone registration will be much like registering a car and getting a driver’s license. The registration will inform drone operators of the laws regarding airspace and other restrictions that the federal government has created to reduce the potential for midair collisions. “Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said. “When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”
Toys and smaller drones probably will be exempt, but the larger, heavier drones that can fly higher and travel longer distances will have to register with the government.
The Department of Transportation will create a task force to determine how to launch the registration, and members of the personal pilot less aircraft community and industry will be included in the group. The registration is expected to roll out in the next two months, Huerta said.
Members of the drone industry, one of the fastest growing tech sectors, have been giving mixed signals regarding registration. Registering drones “makes sense, but it should not become a prohibitive burden for recreational users who fly for fun and educational purposes and who have operated harmoniously within our communities for decades,” said Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy for Model Aeronautics.
Others say that the small number of unmanned aerial vehicles in the air, coupled with the limitations most hobby drones have in reaching high altitudes, does not merit federal scrutiny. They also argue that it would still be hard to identify offending drones because of their small size.
Former FAA attorney Loretta Alkalay also argues that small hobby drones may be protected by laws. She said to Forbes.com: “It’s doubtful to me that adding a new requirement to model aircraft is consistent with the intent of Congress. While the FAA has the authority to require all aircraft to be registered, it has clearly carved out a long-standing exception for hobby drones. That exception existed at the time Congress prohibited the FAA from issuing new rules on model aircraft. I don’t see how it will get around that law.”
The FAA has begun rolling out an app for drone pilots who want to fly their drone legally. Announced in May 2015, B4UFLY lets pilots know if where they want to fly their drone is in restricted airspace.
What do you think?
Do you agree that drones should be registered with the federal government? Why or why not? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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