The FAA released drone registration data last week showing the city, state and zip code of each registered drone operator. The agency says that release of the drone registration database responds to a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests received since implementation of the drone registration program on December 21, 2015.
Drone operators were relieved to find that the FAA would not publish the names and street addresses of registered drone owners. The FAA says that personal data is “exempt from disclosure under a FOIA exemption that protects information in agency files from a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The FAA says that their decision was based on the fact that many registered owners are under age; and registrants had been told that names and addresses would not be made public.
John Goglia, writing for Forbes magazine has been covering this issue for several months now: and he says that the issue remains unclear. “While this was welcome news to many hobby drone owners, especially those with young children who own drones,” writes Goglia, “the information directly conflicted with statements the FAA made in December and the DOT Notice on the public availability of the information which to date has not been changed.” Goglia points out that should an entity decide to pursue the release of personal information in court, the DOT notice might make it easier for them.
The registration data provides interesting information for the drone industry. One of the cool people at AirMap -a leading provider of aeronautical data and services to drones, including a new iOS app that provides dynamic global airspace navigation and regulation data to drone operators – created heat maps of the registration data which shows where most of the registered hobby and commercial users are located. The recreational data, shown above, shows swaths of users on the East and West Coast, with pockets in Texas, the Midwest, and a few western cities; the commercial data, shown below, indicates the first hints of drone clusters beginning in Southern California, Florida and New York.