On Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced a registration requirement for all Unmanned Aircraft and a task force to develop recommendations for the registration process by November 20.
According to Transportation.gov, the task force will be comprised of “25 to 30 diverse representatives from the UAS and manned aviation industries, the federal government, and other stakeholders.”
Based on the personnel surrounding Secretary Foxx at the time of the announcement, we imagine the task force will include representatives from the companies: AUVSI, Academy of the MOdel Aircraft, Airline Pilot’s Association, PrecisionHawk, Small UAV Coalition, and the Consumer Electronics Association, among others.
This announcement comes just one week after the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee’s Hearing on drone safety, in which a lot of ideas were discussed but no actionable decisions were made.
The idea of a drone registry came up several times, but nobody took responsibility for making anything happen.
Can You Define What You Mean By…
While the new registry a long overdue attempt by the federal government to do something about the rising number of drones in our airspace, the task force is going to have to draw some lines in the sand.
Most importantly, they are going to have to define, once and for all, what an unmanned aircraft is.
During last week’s hearing, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) went on Amazon on his phone and said he could purchase Amazon’s “Best Selling UAV” for $45.90.
He didn’t say what the UAV was called, but the product he was looking at was most definitely a toy, closer to a traditional remote control helicopter than a true unmanned aircraft.
If you get your 10 year old nephew this product for Christmas, should he have to register it with the federal government?
The answer to this question should be an obvious ‘No’, but where then should the line be drawn?
DroneLife has always advocated for a definition of the word “drone” or “unmanned aircraft” hinging on the fact that the craft has the capacity to fly it self, without the intervention of man (if only there was a term to describe this…).
In any case, a concrete definition by which we can start to classify these aircraft in legislation and courtrooms is long past due and it seems we may finally get one.
All for One or One for a Few?
Another point of contention for the new task force will be the difference between hobbyist flights and commercial flights. Until now, anyone could buy and fly a drone without any fear of intervention from the FAA as long as they stayed away from airports, private property, crowds, and below 400 feet.
As soon as you accepted money for your flights though, you were considered a commercial operator and needed a COA or Section 333 exemption from the FAA.
Will Foxx’s registration requirement apply to just commercial users or hobbyists as well?
The major reasoning behind the announcement seems to be the increase in alleged drone sightings by airline pilots and the sales predictions for drones this coming holiday season. If Foxx’s intention is to prevent all these new drones from flying near airplanes, the registration will have to apply to everyone, not just commercial users.
This is because professional drone operators know the rules, have a vested interest in following them, and not getting in trouble. They are not the ones flying near airports or over crowds – it’s the regular Joes who just want to take a cool pictures and don’t know/care about the FAA’s rules.
So then the question becomes: How is the government going to enforce the registration of every single DJI Phantom and 3D Robotics Solo this holiday season?
And the answer here has the most potential.
In order to get every drone that takes flight in 2016 registered, the government is going to have to work directly with the manufacturers.
This is hugely important because a registry will only help find the owner of a downed drone once a crash has already happened.
Software solutions, developed and provided by the manufacturers, will be the way in which we prevent crashes from happening. We will only get to a point where drones are required to have specific safety precautions hardwired into them (just like manned aircraft) if cooperation between the government and the manufacturers starts here and now.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com