Washington DC – Federal regulators have announced on Monday that drone owners will now be required to register their unmanned aircraft – even for “consumers and hobbyists” – in an attempt to discourage mischief and negligence in flying robots that are increasingly posing a threat to aviation safety.

The decision of regulating drone owners comes from the Obama administration and has the tacit approval of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has been so far unable to safely integrate the popular remote-controlled planes into the national airspace.

Ten years ago there were 50 drones in the US Air Force’s arsenal. Now there are around 7 500. Credit: Vodacom

Some people like Rich Hansen, head of government relations for the 180,000-member Academy of Model Aeronautics described drones as “virtually toys that pose little to no risk and have minimal capabilities” and expressed that federal regulators should exclude from registration the smallest type of drones. But the truth is that in addition to snarling air traffic, nuisance drones across the country have interfered with firefighters, flown into tall buildings and crashed into bystanders on the ground.

In general, the use of drones lacks a regulatory frame, even when the FAA has banned most business from flying drones until the new safety rules are finished, which could take at least another year.

The U.S. Transportation Department, according to Anthony Foxx from the NY Times, has created a task force to come up with the details for the registration process integrated by more than two dozen representatives from the drone and manned aviation industries. The North America’s largest pilots union has expressed its support for certain registration concepts and even proposed steps for its implementation. Meanwhile, Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, told a House aviation subcommittee that it could help “make clear the serious nature of operating” unmanned aircraft while protecting public safety.

Although the FAA lacks the authority to require drone hobbyists to obtain pilot licenses or get training, it does have the power to impose civil fines on anyone who recklessly interferes with air traffic or endangers people on the ground. For example, the FAA fine that will be released on October 6 for $1.9 million, is the largest penalty by far against any drone user – SkyPan International Inc. – for allegedly operating dozens of unauthorized drone flights in urban areas.

Source: The Washington Post