Drone registration hits snag on day one

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2016 will be the dawn of the drone age.

The FAA last week announced that it would open a new site for drone users to register. PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Recreational users of small drones now have to register them before flying them outdoors, but that may be just the beginning of drone regulation involving airports, stadiums and public places.Whether the topic was military drones operating overseas, or examining how to regulate the growing presence of private and commercial drones in U.S., drones emerged as the unavoidable topic about future tech.

If you live in the U.S. and own any kind of drone that weighs more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds (and that’s pretty much every drone that isn’t a toy like the Parrot MiniDrone), you have until February 19, 2016 to register it. Alan Freed of Harmony Twp., Beaver County, is a recreational drone user and will register his drones as the new FAA regulations require, but he says, “I question whether the people who are using them responsibly … those are the people that will register them. The registration fee is $5 per drone owner — the same $5 processing fee charged for any aircraft registration — but the FAA says it will refund the $5 fee for drones registered through Jan. 20 to encourage participation. If irresponsible drone owners start flying their toys in neighborhoods by the thousands, then homeowners might start shooting these drones down with toy BB guns — just a thought. That kind of incident, as well as a report of a drone near the Allegheny County Airport this week, leads Congressman Mike Doyle to predict Congress will look at new legislation next year. “We just had a gentleman arrested down in Washington D.C. just this past week who was flying it on the mall,” Doyle said. “You just can’t have that, and so I think we need to think about spaces where drones can’t be flown — around public facilities, stadiums and airports and things like that — and just really give some thought to how we’re going to do this… and I think it’s something we’re going to be looking at much more closely when we go back in January, just given all the concern there is with homeland security.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, left, at the Dept. of Transportation in Washington, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, following the drone registration announcement. Once I hit the “next” button, I received a personal identification number and certificate to print out (though like most millennials, I don’t have a printer). I did write the identification number on a sticker, which I then pasted on my drone, an original DJI Phantom that I have been flying since early 2013.

But as a number of reports (more on that later) throughout the year indicated, left unchecked, many drone users risk endangering public safety and invading the privacy of unsuspecting neighbors. Drones have been spotted flying too close to airports as airplanes are taking off, a drone crashed near the White House in early January, and an 18-month-old boy’s eye was sliced in half after he was hit in the head by a crashing drone. Of course, the new rules won’t necessarily solve all of these issues in the coming year and beyond, but by making every drone user directly accountable, the chances of someone operating a drone recklessly will probably decrease. It also means that government and law enforcement officials will be able to track down reckless drone operators — something that, until now, they haven’t been able to do. Aside from the issue of hobbyists and photographers, with recent terrorism events hitting Paris and the U.S. alike, the notion of the drones being used to carry out terror attacks on commercial planes is no longer far-fetched.

And, in most cases, nothing bad will come of this — no drone will crash and burn, no operator will get fined for doing nothing more than flying without an ID number. Potentially putting the lives of airline passengers in danger by invading the tightly controlled airspace of the airports, the increasing frequency of the airport incidents likely spurred the FAA to move even faster to enact the current set of rules. The drone news got even crazier as some property owners turned to shooting drones out of the sky as some have been seen as amateur spying devices that can peek in on neighbors with relative ease. The Academy of Model Aeronautics, for example, which has long run its own registration system for model aircraft, is telling its members not to register their model planes for the time being. “While we continue to believe that registration makes sense at some threshold and for flyers operating outside of a community-based organization or flying for commercial purposes, we also strongly believe our members are not the problem and should not have to bear the burden of additional regulations,” the organization writes. “Safety has been the cornerstone of our organization for 80 years and AMA’s members strive to be a part of the solution.” Still, the FAA’s rule doesn’t differentiate between multirotor drones and fixed-wing remote controlled aircraft and model helicopters. But there has been a highly charged, negative reaction to registration among drone operators (at least those discussing the FAA rule in online forums and web communities).

The owner of the drone was attempting to land the device when he lost control of it and it hit a tree and collided with the child, who needed several surgeries before being fitted for a prosthetic eye. But many other drones still use the uncovered rotor blade design so, for some, the danger of such accidents is still a concern. “The challenge is that the rules are being written as the use of drones rises. Regulations and industry are being reactionary,” says Mike Kelly, of ProSight Specialty Insurance, a firm that offers insurance for drone operators. “We can’t be reactionary in innovation.

We have to be proactive so that stories like Oscar’s never happen.” Finally, what seemed like fanciful science-fiction talk in 2013 moved a little closer to reality as Amazon revealed a prototype of its Prime Air delivery drone. Drones may not deliver to large skyscrapers, but you may see them deliver to various logistic points in these cities from which they are then transported by car, bike or foot.” Taking the entirety of 2015 into account, it’s hard not to see 2016 as the year that drones truly begin to come into their own as tools for startups and major players alike.

A lot of people are freaking out about the fact that names and addresses of people who register their drones will become public information, thus they don’t want to register. Not to mention all of the other information, from location to email to age to shopping habits, that people give freely every day to Facebook, Instagram, Google, Apple, every online retailer, and countless others. That we’re even seriously asking such questions tells us that we’re entering a new era in which drones are no longer toys, but a real technology poised to impact every aspect of our lives. “Consumer drone sales are expected to reach four million this year, and 16 million by 2020,” says Lamprecht. “Add to that their commercial use, and it’s clear that drones are here to stay. Similarly, the FAA itself reported 3,894 laser incidents in 2014, meaning when a pilot reported flash-blindness from looking at a laser pointer that someone directed up at the sky.

Drone technology has come a long way since I crashed my Phantom 1 in January 2013: most drones today come equipped with auto-locking propellers and other advanced safety features, like the ability to send the drone to its starting point with a touch of a button. More than anything, the FAA’s drone registration is a way for it to send a clear message that it takes drones seriously — and all drone operators should too.

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