FAA proposes rule change to force identification of Colorado, Nebraska drones

One day after Colorado and western Nebraska counties reported a series of mysterious, nocturnal drone flights, the Federal Aviation Administration is promoting a rule change last week that requires most drones to be identifiable remotely, a report said Monday.

The rule change, announced Thursday, have been in works for more than a year, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email to the Denver Post Monday.

Under the legislation, law enforcement, federal security agencies and the FAA would be allowed to identify drones flying through their jurisdiction, the FAA said.

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A squadron of drones have been flying above a total of five Midwestern states every night for more than two weeks leaving both residents and officials wondering who’s flying them and what purpose they are serving, the newspaper reported.

Sheriffs in Lincoln, Washington and Sedgwick counties in Colorado and Nebraska say their offices have been inundated with calls about the devices.

While there has been no claim of responsibility, an abundance of theories have been offered, ranging from the work of a Mexican drug cartel, to aliens from a far-off galaxy to The History Channel searching for long-lost cities or farmers looking to track cows.

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Law enforcement officials have reached out to several companies and government agencies – all of whom have said the drones don’t belong to them, the Post reported. That list includes the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort Carson, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Paragon Geophysical Services, the U.S. Geological Survey, Amazon and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A nocturnal squadron of drones have been buzzing the skies of both Colorado and Nebraska, as well as three other Midwestern states, for the past few weeks.  

A nocturnal squadron of drones have been buzzing the skies of both Colorado and Nebraska, as well as three other Midwestern states, for the past few weeks.  

Meanwhile, the FAA is working with local law enforcement on the case, but also hasn’t identified the drone operator, Gregor said Monday.

Local sheriffs told the newspaper the drones don’t appear to be “malicious” and they’re likely not breaking any laws. Flight plans are not required to be filed with the FAA unless the drone pilots are flying in restricted airspace.

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The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days, according to the FAA, which said the proposed change would help drones better “integrate” into the nation’s airspace, the Post reported. Nearly 1.5 million drones and 160,000 remote pilots are registered with the FAA, the agency said in a statement.

Matt Quinn, owner of Great Lakes Drone Co., one of only a handful of companies in the nation with FAA permission to fly multiple small drones at night, said he’s puzzled by the reports out of Colorado.

“It’s the talk of the drone community,” he said.