A drone task force chartered by the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that drones weighing more than 9 ounces be registered, and at no fee to the owner, according to a proposal released Monday by the FAA.
The task force—known as the “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee”— includes a number of big-name associations and companies from aviation and non-aviation backgrounds including Amazon, Best Buy, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), DJI, GoogleX, GoPro, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Parrot, Precision Hawk, and Walmart.
The FAA tapped the Task Force to develop a plan that would make the flight of hobby drones safer, and their pilots easier to track down should they break the law. Furthermore, what the FAA was looking for was a minimum list of requirements drones would need to meet to be registered, a registration process, and a method for proving registration and linking a drone to its registered owner. A difficulty in making the recommendations was developing a series of regulations that would be strict enough, but not overwhelming. (Asking too much of drone pilots could lessen the likelihood that they would comply with the suggestion.)
After considering all of these goals, the Task Force deliberated over the course of several meetings and came to a compromise.
“Many Task Force members approached the proceeding with strong convictions, derived both from their personal experience and from knowledgeable input from their organizations and users,” the final report read. “In such a time-limited tasking, many of these convictions were necessarily set aside in order to reach a general consensus among the group and to provide the FAA with a workable solution that met its safety and policy requirements while not unduly burdening the nascent UAS industry and its enthusiastic owners and users of all ages.”
The Task Force’s ability to compromise was tested on perhaps the most notable recommendation—the decision that extremely small drones should be registered. A pilot operating a drone weighing 250 grams (nearly 9 ounces) or more outdoors in the National Airspace System would have to have the UAS registered should the suggestion be approved. The 250 gram figure was determined by a formula and was based off of a “mass-based approach.”
“This approach best satisfied the Task Force’s concerns about safety and provided a minimum weight threshold for registration that is easy to understand and apply and would therefore encourage compliance,” the report read. “The formula considered was identified to the group as a standard aviation risk assessment formula used in consideration of manned aircraft safety.”
Though an agreement on the weight threshold was eventually met, it wasn’t agreed upon without plenty of contentious discussion.
While an agreement was met on the 250 gram weight, there were Task Force members who believed it was too conservative. Those concerned that the weight mandate was too conservative worried that the weight would hamper compliance levels because drones considered as toys would fall under the weight limit. Others thought that no registration exemption should exist for a drone of any size. Some members thought that the Task Force wasn’t given enough time to examine the results of the risk assessment formula.
Another interesting recommendation resulting from the Task Force’s discussion is the suggestion that drone owners not be required to register each drone they purchase above 250 grams. Instead, a registration system would be made “owner-based,” meaning that each registered owner will be assigned one registration number. That number would then be applied to each drone that person owns. The initial registration would be required before any of the drones are flown in the National Airspace System.
To register a drone in the U.S. under the recommended guidelines, the drone owner wouldn’t have to be a U.S. citizen; however, that person would have to be at least 13 years old. The initial registration would be required before any of the drones are flown in the National Airspace System. When registering, the applicant must provide his or her name and street address. The submission of additional information such as mailing address, telephone number, and the serial number of the drone, is optional.
All of the registration information would be stored on an online database.
FAA spokesperson Elizabeth Cory told Product Design and Development in an email that the adminisration hopes to put the registration system in place as soon as possible. She also said that the FAA will hold a public comment period related to whatever registration system it eventually proposes.
To view the Task Force Recommendations Final Report, including the entire summary of the recommendations made by the UAS Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee, click here.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense