Drone Registry Recommendations Criticized After Release

November 30, 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday released recommendations for a new federal drone registry that quickly came under fire from a member of the agency task force charged with creating the proposals.

The recommendations, along with 4,500 comments from the public, are now being reviewed by Transportation Department officials working on new rules requiring drone owners to register with the government.

Federal officials see registration as one way to address a surge of rogue drone flights near airports and crowded public venues that has raised safety and security concerns among authorities across the United States.

The task force’s recommendations, which are expected to be broadly accepted by the FAA next month, would require drone owners to register their names and addresses in a new FAA database and place an identification number on their aircraft.

“The objective here is very safety and education focused. Just the fact that somebody registers enables us to educate them, provide them educational information so they understand they’re operating in what we call the national airspace system,” Earl Lawrence, FAA’s drone integration office director, told reporters on a conference call.

Lawrence co-chaired the task force, which the FAA assembled last month. He described the recommendations as “a consensus report with no dissenting opinions.”

But less than an hour after the conference call, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a 185,000-member hobbyist group with a seat on the task force, accused the government of stifling dissent and warned the recommendations would violate a 2012 congressional order preventing the FAA from regulating hobby drones.

“AMA wanted to include dissenting comments in the final task force report but was prevented from doing so,” AMA Executive Director Dave Mathewson said in a statement.

Mathewson said the recommendations would create “an unnecessary and unjustified burden” on the group’s members. AMA hobbyists already register with community-based organizations that have observed FAA rules for decades and helped the agency provide education materials on drones to the public, he added.

“There is no finding or indication that any AMA member was involved in the incidents and sightings that led to the decision to require … registration,” Mathewson said.
Federal officials were not immediately available to comment.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents general aviation interests and also had a seat on the task force, called the recommendations a good step but said further adjustments could be needed to ensure accountability and safety.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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