Image 01 Image 03

The Future of Drone Tech Will Be…Regulated

The Future of Drone Tech Will Be…Regulated


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.

h/t TechCrunch

Follow Amy on Twitter @ThatAmyMiller


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Henry Hawkins | October 19, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I was just a kid at the time, but I remember when they had to regulate horseless carriages.

When drones are outlawed, only outlaws will have drones.

Likely, the Obama DOT will cast as wide a net as possible to database citizens.

I can see the registration form now… What is your race, GBLT status, sex, are there guns in your home. etc etc etc… even for young kids buying a little plane that is a model of the one the Red Baron flew.

The ensuing wideband dogfights over this will be interesting.

…Dem Reps demanding a radio backdoor so govt can take over little Johnny’s or Jenny’s toy airplane in the name of national drone defense.

Regulators gotta regulate to justify their existence.

As an avid model airplane enthusiast and a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics I see the “drone” (they are referred to in model aviation as multi-rotors or quads) every where I go….and many of these operators think it is cool and a rush to fly them “FPV” which is First-Person View. It has a small video camera and a transmitter that sends the video signal back to a pair of goggles. Now, there is nothing wrong with that BUT…..many of these same folks attend flying events and fly these quads in close proximity to bystanders without any regard to the safety. Here is a typical smartass quad pilot who thinks it is funny and just peachy keen to avoid rules. These guys are giving the hobby a bad name. Scott Johnson AMA 822366

    scooterjay in reply to scooterjay. | October 19, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    watch someone toss a hat at him at 1:26 for flying past people at 60 mph. Yeah, it would hurt if he hit you at that speed, and carbon fiber props will inflict nasty cuts. This guy caused a major ruckus at Joe Nall and I’m pretty sure he got escorted out of there and banned for life. Not cool, punk! I’m still mad about this!

2nd Ammendment Mother | October 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm

What utter alarmist BS! Glad these folks weren’t around when Orville and Wilbur were playing around with their very dangerous flying machine. Drones are in their infancy – sort of like those silly kids learning how to launch rockets in the 40’s. Their potential in so many fields hasn’t even scratched the surface.

Out here in flyover country we’re using them for crop and range management, livestock management, tracking wildlife patterns, and property inspection. Drones allow us to provide much more accurate and effective use of limited resources to keep our land in top condition. My neighbor surveys his crops frequently and has much better control of the areas where he needs to address problems – instead of spraying an entire field, he now only treats the northwest corner where it’s needed.

Last winter, my other neighbor came up short on his steer count. Instead of having to take his horse out, late in the day with a winter storm coming in, we met him at the pasture and sent our drone up to survey the pasture. After a 30 minute flight and a couple of minutes to transfer the footage – we located the missing cows at the far end of a creek. He was able to get in and move those steers back with the herd. Without the drone footage, he likely wouldn’t have found the livestock and they likely would have perished in the storm without access to water.

Then, there’s drone use on my own property that we have set aside for wildlife. By tracking wildhog herds, we can direct the trappers we work with to the areas where the hogs are destroying water sources and rangeland used by other species. Its a win – win since the trapped hogs are sold to processors, the trappers earn extra income and our costs of restoring land and water resources are minimized by addressing problems early. All of these are remote areas, that if we were to cover them on horseback we would only get to once or twice a month. With our drone program, we can cover all of our acreage every 4 days.

But….. those crazy kids and their flying machines, experimenting with drones….. yep…. take them away and regulate the he$$ out of them!

    I seem to recall the Wright boys had the good sense to fly their contraptions on a beach, far away from people and property that might be injured or damaged by their machines.

    I agree there are many useful purposes for these devices, several of which you describe. But there is also a lot of crap going on including trespassing and flying in crowded areas which puts people at risk of injury. If somebody put my kid’s eye out with their drone I would want to get biblical on them.

    What does the law say about my private property and trespassing with drones? Do I own the airspace over my property? If somebody flies a drone into it, can I bring it down?

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to 2nd Ammendment Mother. | October 19, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    They are useful tools but a lot of morons are using them as toys with little regard the rights of others and to pry into other people’s business. There are also criminal applications. The drone that can help track endangered species by wildlife management people can also be used by a pedophile to stalk a child.

Henry Hawkins | October 19, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Videocam-ed drones allow peeping Toms to access all floors of a domicile, lol.

Henry Hawkins | October 19, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Excerpt from Jan 2015 WSJ:

“Drones are becoming a tool for criminals and terrorists, worrying authorities who say the small unmanned aircraft are difficult to detect and stop, a concern heightened this week by the accidental crash of a drone at the White House.

Law-enforcement officials have discovered criminals smuggling drugs and other contraband across the U.S. border and into prisons using the types of consumer drones increasingly popular with entrepreneurs and hobbyists. And authorities in the U.S., Germany, Spain and Egypt have foiled at least six potential terrorist attacks with drones since 2011.”

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to Henry Hawkins. | October 19, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    It was the development of a nationwide network of roads in teh 20s and 30s along with the growing availability powerful cars that fueled calls for federal law enforcement agencies. The criminal class figured it was easy to race across state lines to escape the patchwork of urban, county and state officials. They were assisted by a media that tended to glamorize their bank robbing and kidnappings as getting even with the establishment.

    Criminals have also been known to get ahead of law enforcement in their choice of weapons.

    forksdad in reply to Henry Hawkins. | October 19, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Good lord, I could see smuggling diamonds or fairy dust or unicorn horn powder but what in the hell is the load out for a drone. A couple pounds? There is far more coming in through diplomatic pouches and the mail.

    How can smuggling anything in a drone be profitable? And how can you cross the border any distance when the range is so low?

    My first bust for pot had bales of the stuff in the basement of a house. How much can you carry in a drone?

So how is the government going to enforce this? I can just see a flourishing black market developing for drones.

    forksdad in reply to rabidfox. | October 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Put gps in all of them? Require manufacturers give them back door control? License all fliers? License all sales? Put governors on them that ‘brick’ the drone and bring it down calling law enforcement if someone flies it above the ceiling, the speed, or in an unsafe manner? Make it a felony to ‘threaten’ someone with one by flying too close?

    I’m just scratching the surface I am sure. The government has endless ways to regulate stuff.

      tphillip in reply to forksdad. | October 19, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      Uh huh.

      You do know that many quad-copters are scratch built (The gun equivalent would be using steel pieces and a lathe/machine shop). So, what’s your glorious plan to regulate those?

      We’re waiting with baited breath…

        forksdad in reply to tphillip. | October 20, 2015 at 12:17 am

        Yes dozens and dozens scratch built with no off the shelf software or – who cares. There are so few who gives a rat’s ass? If they regulate the manufactured ones and the parts needed to get one flying you can simply outlaw the others. And somebody will turn someone in.

          scooterjay in reply to forksdad. | October 20, 2015 at 6:40 am

          yes, many are scratch built from components that are controlled with micro programmable controllers like the Arduino or Raspberry PI. You get to write your control scheme into the logic. These things are doing to responsible flyers what the ATV did for responsible off road motorcyclists.

OK… I buy a drone fly it a while grow tired of it and sell it at a yard sale? I have no ides who buys it?

So much for government overreach again! This regulation will not stop nefarious uses of drones!
All it’s going to do is create another bloated government program.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!

2nd Ammendment Mother | October 20, 2015 at 9:58 am

“They are useful tools but a lot of morons are using them as toys with little regard the rights of others and to pry into other people’s business. There are also criminal applications. The drone that can help track endangered species by wildlife management people can also be used by a pedophile to stalk a child.”

Then we’d better lock up all the cellphones, tablets, personal computers, camcorders, cameras, cars, trucks and vans. Same for private aircraft, boats, air boats, shipping containers, nightclubs, warehouses, IDF chips, credit cards and cash.

We’ll also need to ban non-descript homes in normal neighborhoods that are used as stash houses for both human and drug trafficking.

And let’s not forget that this is the exact argument being made by those who want to abolish the 2nd Amendment and confiscate firearms. How about the fight we’re having to stop the loss of the 1st Amendment on the Internet and college campuses? The list of things that can be misused by someone with ill intent is endless.

Killing innovation is incredibly stupid.

And someone mentioned those dastardly Raspberry Pi’s…. we certainly can’t allow people to tinker with open source circuitry. They might invent something.

Regulation: old and busted

Innovation and home-built: the new and shiney

With 3D printers, people will be producing all kinds of stuff at home, regardless of the statist nannies trying to squelch them.

When people misuse stuff…be it guns or drones…THAT’S when society has some call to deal with them. Up until then, no!