Feds Seek Drone Registry Amid Safety Concerns

By Alan Levin | October 19, 2015

The Obama administration is taking the first steps to require that buyers of drones register the unmanned aircraft with the government to combat a growing safety threat, according to a person familiar with the proposal.

The U.S. Transportation Department will announce as soon as next week that a task force of government and industry officials will craft a plan to create a registry, said the person, who asked for anonymity and wasn’t authorized to disclose the information.

A pilot and photographer operating a UAV photography drone in an open field
A pilot and photographer operating a UAV photography drone in an open field

The administration hopes a registry would encourage hobbyists and other drone owners to follow rules intended to prevent the aircraft from crashing into planes or hurting people on the ground, according to the person. In the event of an accident, a registry may help the government track down the operator.

Pilot encounters with drones are on pace to at least quadruple to more than 1,000 this year, the Federal Aviation Administration said in August. The reports highlight a growing threat to U.S. aviation by unmanned aircraft.

Drone operators must obtain FAA permission before flying within five miles of an airport and must stay away from piloted aircraft.

Regulators are concerned that a collision between a drone and a plane, which could easily occur at a speed of 200 miles (320 kilometers) an hour or more, may damage an aircraft or its engines. Encounters with drones can also cause pilots to be distracted from other critical tasks.

Industry groups estimate that as many as 500,000 drones have been sold in the U.S., many of which are capable of flying thousands of feet above the ground.

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