No one really thought much of the impact of the growing hobby-drone fad until a consumer drone landed on the White House grounds earlier this year.
Since then, we’ve been peppered with headlines describing the many ways drones have invaded our lives, and sometimes, secure airspace. Pilots all across the country have logged close encounters with the unmanned devices; California topped the list with almost 200 reports of near-misses since 2014.
Pilots and other experts have expressed concern that an encounter with even a small drone could endanger both aircraft and passenger and now, officials have come up with a solution to the growing problem.
You guessed it—more regulations.
Today federal regulators unveiled plans to require require recreational drone users to register their aircraft before the devices can be legally flown. Officials are still “working out the details” as to exactly how this will work, but the overall goal of the program is reportedly to force consumers and hobbyists to think twice before flying their drones into dangerous or controlled airspace.
Via Fox News:
Federal Aviation Administration chief Michel Huerta said registration will increase pressure on operators to fly responsibly, adding “there will be consequences” when they don’t.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stressed that the DOT is “bullish” on technology in the transportation sector, noting drones are helping farmers, entrepreneurs and even the movie industry. But citing the “astounding” growth in the industry and the safety issues, he said: “We’re going to require operators of drones to register their aircraft just like commercial drone operators do currently.”
How the industry responds is an open question.
Registering drones that could pose safety risks “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,” Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy for Model Aeronautics, said in a statement.
Currently, recreational drone users are allowed to fly freely as long as they stay 5 miles from any airports, and don’t exceed 400 feet in altitude. Permitted commercial drone users operate under similar restrictions. The federal government is currently researching new technology that would allow regulators to scan for drones flying inside the prohibited 5 mile radius around airports, and then track the operator.
For now, however, the small size of most drones will keep them off radar—which means that this registration requirement could end up serving as more of an awareness campaign than a vehicle for any meaningful safety procedures.
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