Last week’s accident involving a drone and a triathlete in Australia brings to the forefront the issue of drone safety and liability. And with the issue of drone safety and liability comes the discussion of licensing and registration.
The accidents and risks are real. Remember the Wyoming groom (YouTube video below) who almost didn’t get to say “I Do” as a result of being hit by the photographer’s drone? How about the drone that came crashing down on a busy Manhattan street almost hitting a businessman’s head near Grand Central Station?
So, will there be a day when the FAA mandates the licensing of drone pilots? NBC News looked at the Drone Driving License issue last year:
“In the late 1920s, aircrafts were still failing out of the sky left and right,” Missy Cummings, who studies drones and autonomous systems at MIT, said at a panel discussion at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) in New York on Saturday. Today, drone technology is at the same place … Classifying the crafts by weight could help regulators come up with an effective safety strategy, several panelists agreed. Others are less sure that humans, even trained ones, can be trusted at all. Drones would need to come with software-based “training wheels,” or “safety bumpers,” to protect amateurs and reckless pilots from harming themselves and others, Cummings said.
Some have suggested that the solution will be be found in drone registration. They argue that requiring a unique identifier (similar to your car’s VIN) by the drone manufacturer coupled with the registration (yes, there will be fees) by the owner will create a sense of responsibility and more importantly, liability.
With registration, lost drones could be returned to their rightful owner as would be the case in Sussex, England where the police are spreading the word of two recently recovered drones.
Undoubtedly the discussion of pilot licensing and owner registration are big topics as the FAA prepares for their 2015 rules to integrate nonmilitary drones into U.S. airspace. Learn more in our article, Who Owns the Sky? The FAA’s Drone Integration Plan, Part I