Remember last year? As we approached the holidays, the stories began hitting how our skies would be filled with drones bought off the shelf for Christmas.

So many, our drones would blot out the sun. Hey, we could fly in the shade…

No, the news today is the FAA will stop dragging its feet on regulating the use of drone aircraft. Prepare to register your drone. With the Department of Transportation. Wait, what? I have to go to the DMV?

That’s just wrong FAA. I get you don’t want to handle the paperwork, but the DMV? A lump of coal for all of us. Here’s hoping that report is wrong.

[divider]Why the Regulation?[/divider]

The skies are filling up. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, around 700,000 drones will be sold this holiday alone. Toys and drones under a pound or two would be exempt. The danger posed is minimal at best.

These new rules would apply to heavier aircraft that can reach altitudes of a thousand feet or greater. The thought is that drones weighing over this could potentially cause a devastating accident if there were a midair collision with a plane full of passengers.

[divider]How many sightings?[/divider]

In the past year, the FAA reports that they receive north of 100 calls a month of potential drone sightings. The problem? Some of the sightings are just that. The pilot saw something. The Academy of Model Aeronautics studied the records of the 764 reports and had a few interesting takeaways.

  • Not every sighting or report was a “close call.” Many were just that – sightings. Only a small fraction was legitimately reported as “near misses” or “near mid-air collisions.”
  • Some of the most serious incidents in the FAA data – including all actual crashes – involve government-authorized military drones, not civilian drones.
  • It’s not just uninformed consumers causing problems; the data includes several reports of authorized or unauthorized public entities and commercial operators flying.
  • Some sightings appear to involve people flying responsibly and within the FAA’s current recreational guidelines.
  • Many things in the air – from balloons and birds to model rockets and mini blimps – are mistaken for, or reported as, drone sightings even when they are not.
  • Many sightings have occurred over or around stadium events, wildfires, power plants and other critical infrastructure. These raise different concerns from pilot sightings.
  • In almost 20 percent (142) of the reports, local law enforcement either wasn’t notified or it was unknown whether local law enforcement was notified.

Drone Registration and then Regulation

While it’s easy to knee-jerk to one side or the other, rules do need to be in place. Sensible ones with a healthy dose of common sense from operators. Don’t fly near airports. It’s illegal, and the FAA already has a plan to track violators.

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The agency signed an agreement with CACI International last month to test technology to track radio signals. Operating a small drone near an airport? Prepare to be tracked within the 5-mile radius and caught.

faa to propose drone registration and regulation

Just don’t do it. A lot of the proposed rules are common sense. Filming in a protected area? Get permission. Simple as that. Stay away from military bases. Every base my dad was stationed at had a camera buffer zone around the NSGA pen. You honestly think MPs are going to be cool with you buzzing various installations?

First will be registration. It’s the easiest and keeps everyone accountable. Next? The rules. Earlier this year, the FAA opened up the proposed guidelines to public comments. You can check out the full press release from February 15th.

Yes, most light drones are going to be exempt from these rules. Now if you’re dropping thousands of dollars on a UAV, I’m not seeing a problem with having to take a test on basic aeronautic rules, principles and weather.

We can learn something, and it keeps everyone safer.

Sure, we haven’t seen the final rules. But, the new rules should be prohibitive for people to buy one off the shelf and have fun.

Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, said it best in his statement that registering “makes sense, but it should not become a prohibitive burden for recreational users who fly for fun and educational purposes and who have operated harmoniously within our communities for decades.”

The new registration requirement isn’t in place yet, but the rumors have it being announced today or sometime this week. The regulations? If you want to believe a federal government timeline, those will be up by Christmas.

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