US to announce drone registry initiative: sources

18 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

All drones to require federal registration.

The federal government will announce a plan within days that will require anyone who buys a drone to register it with the Department of Transportation, NBC reported Friday evening. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Administrator Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration will release more details on Monday at 12:30 p.m. Department of Transportation.” According to the report, the Government will work with drone makers to set up a registration system that could be in place by Christmas. Eastern time. “The hobbyist drone community has self-regulated itself for decades,” said Lisa Ellman, co-chair of the unmanned aircraft systems practice at Hogan Lovells, a New York–based law firm. “But with the technology getting so cheap and improving so much, we have more and more drones.” Florida lawyer Jonathan Rupprecht, author of a book on drone law, said he believes any plan centered around drone registration is a necessary first step toward regulating drones but is curious how the regulation will play out and whether the rule will apply to hobbyists with small drones. “It could get people off our backs,” Rupprecht said, referencing fears about drones’ use in spying operations and about crashes. “At some point the industry is going to have to realize we’re going to have to be regulated and we’re going to have to give up concessions right now.” “Who is going to regulate this?

The report is unclear whether existing owners would need to register along with those purchasing new drones, but we may not have to wait long to find out—NBC News says the Government plans to announce its proposal on Monday. The agency said earlier this month that it expects more than 1 million drones “under Christmas trees this year.” Given the numerous incidents already—hobby drones flying near busy airports or obstructing firefighters from putting out blazes—it’s clear regulations are needed before these flying gifts are unwrapped. Over the summer, as PBS reported at the time, hobbyists flying a drones hampered efforts by firefighters to quell multiple wildfires in Southern California. Drones weighing less than 1 pound can be purchased for less than $100 from companies such as the French drone maker Parrot PARRO, -1.85% Drones are also widely sold online, including on AMZN, +1.48% and via the Apple Store.

Back in 2013, Amazon proposed a delivery-by-drone service, but said it couldn’t actually launch the service until the FAA had regulations in place for commercial drone flight. (Earlier this year, the FAA proposed rules that would allow for some commercial drone uses, but not drone deliveries.) Meanwhile, just last week, Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a bill that would make it a federal misdemeanor to “knowingly operate a drone within 2 miles of a fire, an airport or any other restricted airspace,” as our John Ribeiro explained. Currently, operators using a drone for commercial purposes must have FAA authorization to fly commercially through what’s called a Section 333 exemption. The FAA estimates that there will be roughly 7,500 commercial drones in the skies within the next five years, but some in the drone community suspect that figure is low. The owner of that drone, an off-duty government employee, turned himself in. “The law says drone operators can’t recklessly endanger the public, but if you don’t know who (the drone operator) is, you can’t really enforce the law,” Ellman said. “People are buying these as toys and not realizing they need to be truly responsible.”

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