The US Department of Transportation announced Monday that purchasers of drones will have to register the devices with the federal government as part of a new “national registry.”
The plan comes following several close calls with drones and passenger aircraft at airports nationwide and as firefighters have said they have had their aerial firefighting hindered because of drones being in the way. Hundreds of thousands of the small unmanned aircraft are expected to be sold in the coming weeks ahead of the holiday season.
“Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the US aviation system,” Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, said. “It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”
At a news conference, Foxx said the US is creating a “national registry of folks who are owners of drones and users of drones.”
Two weeks ago, the Air Line Pilots Association told lawmakers that registering drones could help the authorities track down misbehaving drone pilots. Lawmakers have also called on regulators to take action, too. Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-OR) told a House panel two weeks ago that flight regulators should consider registration because “there should be a way to track these things back to irresponsible owners.”
The government announced a task force to determine which aircraft should be exempt from registration “due to a low safety risk,” which might include “toys” and other devices. The recommendations, and the details of how the registration process will work, should be delivered to the agency by Nov. 20, Foxx said. Registered drones will likely host an identifying number linking to its owner.
The task force, the government said, will be composed of up to 30 people from government, the drone industry, and other stakeholders. Foxx said he expects to have a “streamlined registration process” in place “by the middle part of December.”
The government is also finalizing formal rules to allow the commercial use of drones nationwide. About 200 clearances have already been granted.