U.S. consulting on registration for aerial drones

Canada plans a registration process for light unmanned aircraft next year

U.S. officials say they now get reports every day of “potentially unsafe” drone operations, such as over wildfires, near airports and over major sports events.

U.S. federal transportation and aviation officials are at the drawing board on a registration process for unmanned aircraft systems, more popularly known as drones.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administrator Michael Huerta on Oct. 19 announced they will set up a task force to develop recommendations for such a process and to report back by Nov. 20.

“Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system,” Foxx said in a release.

The task force is also expected to look at options for a streamlined system that would make registrations “less burdensome” for commercial-level drone operators.

The FAA said Oct. 19 it now gets reports every day of potentially unsafe drone operations. Pilot sightings of drones, for example, doubled between 2014 and 2015. Other reports ranged from incidents at major sporting events and flights near manned aircraft, to interference with wildfire operations.

“These reports signal a troubling trend,” Huerta said. “Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly.”

Measure, a Washington, D.C. company operating commercial drones for clients in farming and other sectors, said it supports the FAA’s plans.

“Too many newcomers to the industry have ignored the rules and put aircraft in the national airspace at risk, while commercial drone service providers have made the effort to work with the FAA,” CEO Brandon Torres said in the FAA’s release. “This pattern has been bad for business, bad for the industry, and bad for the American public.”

Torres forecast that over a million drones will be sold in the U.S. this holiday season, and “we need to ensure that everyone learns how to operate safely.”

Canada’s Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced in May the ministry plans to set up similar regulations in 2016, covering flight rules, aircraft marking and registration, minimum age limits, “knowledge testing” and pilot permits for certain drone operators.

Transport Canada in May cited “several reports of reckless and negligent (drone) use,” such as near airports or at high altitudes, and said it has launched 50 investigations of incidents involving drones in Canada since 2010.

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