The US Department of Transportation (DOT) along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today a new drone registration requirement that will see Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) across the country filing up with the government.
It's a logical step as drone usage is only going to grow: the government wants to regulate the tech largely to prevent unsafe flying situations. As we head into the holidays and drones, expected to be one of the hottest gifts this year, become more ubiquitous, some form of regulation is a wise move.
The requirement to register drones in the US could also have reverberations wherever UAS fly.
Drone task force (not as cool as it sounds)
To help formulate what drone registration will look like, the DOT is creating a task force to generate recommendations for the process.
The task force, made up of 25-30 folks from the UAS, manned aviation and government sectors, will turn in its recommendations by November 20. That should give enough time for its recommendations to be approved or modified and implemented by Christmas.
Part of the task force's remit will be to advise whether certain drones, like toys and smaller UAS, should be exempt from the registration requirement because these pose a low safety risk.
Commercial drone registration is also on the task force's docket: the group will look at streamlining the process so it's less burdensome for companies that want to fly drones for business purposes. This will likely have implications for Amazon, Google and others looking into delivery and other kinds of drones.
The DOT and FAA are most concerned with drones that fly into airspace occupied by planes and ones that pose other safety risks, such as flying over major sporting events and fires.
According to the DOT, pilot sightings of drones have doubled between 2014 and 2015. The crafts have crash-landed at sporting events (like the US Open tennis tournament this summer), halted firefighters as they battled wildfires, and been spotted close to manned aircraft.
The agencies believe registration will help drone pilots learn the rules of the air and keep them accountable. And if they go rouge, the government will literally know where they live.
While we have yet to know what the drone registration process will look like, we can only hope it doesn't require standing in long lines at the DMV. Please, Uncle Sam, anything but that.