FAA To Require Drone Operator Registration
FAA seeks to increase accountability of drone operators due to recent near misses. This could be a sign of relief for Emergency Managers.
According to the FAA, pilot sightings of unmanned aircraft near airplanes and at sporting events have doubled since last year. Some of these reports included interference with wildfire-fighting operations on the West Coast this year. Despite the increase, no accidents have been reported to the FAA.
Though there are no current requirements in place, Secretary of Transportation has directed a Task Force to develop and deliver a report by November 20th to have registration requirements in place by mid-December–just in time for the holidays. This gets interesting as the Consumer Electronics Association predicts that 700,000 drones will be sold this holiday season.
What does this mean for emergency managers? Really not much for internal operations. Currently government entities are required to receive a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA before operating their own unmanned aviation program. Hobbyists and some commercial entities have typically been afforded less regulation. However, emergency managers should see this as a somewhat sigh of relief. The ability to assign ownership of a specific unmanned aircraft could lead to more accountability and more responsible airborne operation. This may reduce the risk assessment emergency managers currently assess unmanned aircraft incidents at.
However, questions remain as to how this will be regulated, if state and local law enforcement entities will have the ability to enforce. Further, just because there are regulations doesn’t mean that everyone will follow them. Without an effective enforcement mechanism, any new FAA regulation of unmanned aircraft wouldn’t really have the desired impact. A pressing question–though it is unclear how this could be addressed–is how do you distinguish between the unmanned aircraft operated by regulated and approved operators and those operated by individuals with more of a nefarious intent?
Though the last statement may seem to contradict the sigh of relief emergency managers may feel, it really could help weed out the nefarious intenders from the responsible ones. For example: there are 100 unmanned aircraft within a jurisdiction owned by the citizenry. 90 are registered and operated by those following the rules (i.e. don’t fly near a stadium) and 10 are not. This form of deterrence reduces the logical leap required to identify those unmanned aircraft with a higher likelihood of nefarious intent. But without mandatory registration at purchase, it would be extremely hard for authorities to identify the owner of the nefarious unmanned aircraft–especially if it is not recovered by authorities.
Article by Ian Duncan of the Barlitmore Sun: Click Here
FAA UAV Webpage: Click Here
FAA UAV Registration Information: Click Here