The Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration, announced this week it’s creating a task force to develop tighter regulation — specifically, a registry — for civilian unmanned aircraft systems. Now the floor is open: If you have strong feelings about your drones (or the drones of your neighbors!), head on over to the call for public comment and launch your UAS truth-bombs at the DOT and FAA.
The name of the game is nuance. Hobbyist groups like the Academy of Model Aeronautics agree that some regulation is needed but want to make sure that the registration process, in whatever form it takes, isn’t a burden. The AMA’s regulatory affairs representative, Richard Hanson, tells Inverse that he makes a distinction between model aircraft or toys that are flown purely for the joy of flight — which, he points out, we’ve been doing for 80 years — versus what he calls “personal use” drones; that is, people flying drones take photos, for instance, or racing or delivering burritos among friends. In Hanson’s view, the most important place to draw the line between drones that should be regulated and ones that don’t pose much of a threat is capability.
“If this aircraft is sophisticated enough or has automation that can allow it to fly on its own, beyond the sight of the pilot,” he says, “then that becomes problematic. Both in terms of intentionally allowing it to fly away or inadvertently.” First-person video downlinks, too, that allow pilots to control drones beyond normal line-of-sight distances should also be closely monitored, in Hanson’s view.
What, specifically, is the FAA looking for? Here are the questions the agency is wrestling with now — and these are sweeping, from-the-ground-up queries. Paraphrasing here, but only slightly:
- Should each UAS have an individual identifier or serial number? Will you promise not to file them off? What about DIY serial numbers for DIY drones?
- When should you register your UAS? Is it OK if we tack on an extra 15 minutes to your Wal-Mart drone shopping trip?
- How pissed will Wal-Mart be if its workers have to submit the registration data?
- Help us draw a line in the sand between those cheapo toy helicopters and top-of-the-line drones that will cause seriously expensive damage when they crash.
- Can we pull off this registration thing without crippling the UAS community and industry?
- “Should the registration be electronic or web-based?” Or maybe some non-electronic form of the web we’re not familiar with?
- How much information will you give us about your drone and yourself? Single/relationship/it’s complicated?
- Where should we store this data so that “FAA drone registry hacked, millions exposed” isn’t a headline in 2019?
- If there’s a registration fee and we make you use PayPal, how pissed will you be?
- Please if anyone has any ideas about UAS we’d love to hear them but only until November 6.
Take your drone comments out of your pocket and display them here.