Published May 02, 2016
On the heels of an alarming study spotlighting the danger drones pose to commercial aircraft, the FAA on Monday announced new regulations requiring drone registration in an effort to keep track of soaring ownership.
The online registration would apply to owners of small drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras, according to a statement by the FAA.
“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”
The new rules would require drone owners to pay a $5 registration fee. Penalties go up to $27,000 for civil violations, $250,000 for criminal acts with up to three years behind bars.
People, 13 and older, who purchased drones before Dec. 21, 2015, must register the device by Feb. 19, 2016.
The FAA expects parents to register for younger children.
The rule changes come on the heels of a Bard College report that detailed how risky the drone boom has become, highlighting hundreds of close encounters between drones and manned aircrafts in U.S. airspace.
According to the study, of the 927 incidents recorded, 327 between December 2013 and September 2015 posed a proximity danger, which occurs when an unmanned aircraft gets within 500 feet of a plane or helicopter or when a pilot deems a drone as too close and dangerous.
The FAA prohibits the use of unmanned aircraft within 5 miles of any airport within the U.S. without permission from air traffic control.
The study, released Friday, provided an overview of drones wandering into flight paths.
One in every five incidents occurred within the “no-drone zone” of an airport. One in ten took place at or below 400 feet, while one in five reported drone-to-aircraft proximities of “close encounters,” according to the report.
New York City and Newark, N.J., were the most common location for incidents, with a total of 86.
Aside from the drone registry, there are a variety of other parallel efforts aimed at reducing or preventing future incidents involving drones. One, geo-fencing, is a system that uses software to limit where unmanned aircraft can fly. Another, called “sense and avoid system” allows unmanned aircraft to autonomously detect a potential collection with another aircraft and take evasive action like a human pilot would.
“Various groups are working to develop reliable sense and avoid systems that can match the detect and avoid capability of a human, and the FAA is working to develop common standards for the technology,” the report stated.
The report also suggests traffic management as a way of keeping drones and manned aircrafts separate. An air traffic control system similar to the one currently in use for manned aircraft is being looked into by NASA, which would provide drone operators with “airspace design, corridors, dynamic geo fencing, severe weather and wind avoidance, congestion management, terrain avoidance, route planning and re-routing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.