US Transportation Secretary announces requirement to register drones

October 20, 2015 |

The US Federal Government has finally taken action to regulate unmanned aircraft systems (UAVs), better known as drones.  The US Transport Secretary has announced the requirement that drones be registered in a release titled  U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx Announces Unmanned Aircraft Registration Requirement.

The focus is on transport and dealing with the increasing intrusion into manned flight paths, incidents such as wildfires and general incursion into what should be no fly zones.  It is a partial response.  There is no reference to dealing with the privacy intrusive and nuisance creating behaviour of drones.  It is a piecemeal approach focusing on the immediate concern about the misuse of drones in interfering with other skybound operations.  That is a mistake of public policy. But even if it is incomplete it is more than what is happening in Australia.  A promise of action next year.

The release provides:

New Task Force to Develop Recommendations by November 20

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta today announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The task force will be composed of 25 to 30 diverse representatives from the UAS and manned aviation industries, the federal government, and other stakeholders.  The group will advise the Department on which aircraft should be exempt from registration due to a low safety risk, including toys and certain other small UAS.  The task force also will explore options for a streamlined system that would make registration less burdensome for commercial UAS operators.

The task force may make additional safety recommendations as it deems appropriate.  Secretary Foxx directed the group to deliver its report 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.  “It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

Every day, the FAA receives reports of potentially unsafe UAS operations.  Pilot sightings of UAS doubled between 2014 and 2015.  The 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.  When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.” 

While the task force does its work, the FAA will continue its aggressive education and outreach efforts, including the “Know Before You Fly” campaign and “No Drone Zone” initiatives with the nation’s busiest airports.  The agency also will continue to take strong enforcement action against egregious violators. At the same time, it will continue working with stakeholders to improve safety to ensure further integration and innovation in this promising segment of aviation.

Secretary Foxx was joined by representatives from the following stakeholder groups:

  • The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International 
  • Academy of Model Aircraft
  • Air Line Pilots Association
  • American Association of Airport Executives 
  • Helicopter Association International
  • PrecisionHawk 
  • AirMap/ Small UAV Coalition 
  • Consumer Electronics Association

The announcement has been comprehensively covered in ‘Urgent’ call for US drone register.   The report accurately covers the expected opposition which is understandable as at the moment the sky is free as far as drone use is concerned.  The rules such as they are are rarely effective and when enforcement action is taken it is usually under some other law. The article provides:

A national register of drones and their owners is urgently needed, the US transport secretary has said.

Anthony Foxx said a taskforce had been set up to examine creating a record of drones and their users.

The move comes after several reported incidents of drones hindering emergency services’ efforts in fighting fires and other dangers.

The problem is seen as particularly pressing as the number of drones given as Christmas presents this year is expected to soar.

The task force will issue a report on how the database will be implemented late next month.

Crucially, it will look at what kind of drones should be exempt from the database, such as those bought as toys.

“We feel the level of urgency here is sufficient for us to move as quickly as we possibly can,” Mr Foxx said.

He added in a statement: “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. It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”


The National Press Photographers’ Association (NPPA), which has campaigned against the implementation of some drone laws, agreed with a database in principle, but questioned how it effective it would be in preventing unsafe drone use.

“The fact is that for the most part, when there are sightings, they don’t actually get to recover the drone itself,” NPPA lawyer Mickey Osterreicher told BBC News.

“So what would registering the drone accomplish?”

He added that further rules would not prevent bad drone use, drawing comparisons to people who drive cars without a licence or insurance: “You really can’t legislate against stupidity.”

The plans have the support of several other groups in the aviation industry, including the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which will help the task force to come up with recommendations.

The group said: “Because safe operations are essential for all users of the national airspace, AUVSI is also looking forward to continuing its work with the FAA and other supporters of the ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign to educate newcomers to UAS technology about where they should and shouldn’t fly.”

Drone safety has been of prime concern to US authorities as emergency services repeatedly cite examples of drones hampering their work.

California governor Jerry Brown recently shot down a proposed law to make it easier for emergency services to disable drones flying near disaster areas by using electronic jamming.

That bill gained support after fire fighters had to down helicopters that were trying to extinguish devestating wildfires in northern California.

The bill was opposed by several groups representing drone users’ interests, including the NPPA.

In a letter to the governor, the NPPA argued that it would make it too difficult for media to legally cover stories by using drones.

After dismissing the proposed law, Mr Brown said he agreed with those who felt it could open a legal minefield for hobbyist drone owners acting within existing laws.



One Response to “US Transportation Secretary announces requirement to register drones”

  1. US Transportation Secretary announces requirement to register drones | Australian Law Blogs

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