Government To Require Users To Register Drones To Prevent Safety Risks

The U.S. government will soon require consumers to register newly-purchased drones with the Department of Transportation. Officials will announce the details on Monday, along with plans to form a task force on the flying devices. Will the plans stop the dozens of close-call situations caused by drone operators?

The basic idea is if a drone is caught in the wrong place it could then be traced back to whoever bought it, making users think twice about flying the machines into dangerous situations, according to Yahoo! News.

And recently there have been plenty of such incidents.

The FAA recently reported that there are now around 100 incidents of drones flying perilously close to commercial aircraft every month, up from 20 per month at the same time last year.

One of the closer calls included a drone coming within 100 feet of a passenger jet coming in to land at JFK Airport with 159 people on board, according to NBC News. In another incident, an unmanned aircraft got within 100 feet of another jet at 1,700 feet in the air (the safe distance between aircraft is at least 1,000 feet.)

A Drone in flight
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York proposed a new law requiring manufacturers of unmanned aircraft to put “geo-fencing” technology into their software, according to the Huffington Post, preventing drones from being operated near a danger zone, going one step beyond a federal register.

In announcing his idea, Schumer reportedly said, “God forbid a drone was sucked into the engine of a passenger airline that was flying, it’d be a huge tragedy. And it’s a matter of time before that happens.”

There have been other problems as well.

Drones have been crashing sporting events (literally). Last month, unmanned devices crashed in the U.S. Open and the University of Kentucky’s Wildcats’ home opener. No one was hurt, and the latter situation, University officials weren’t even sure how to punish the student pilot.

Meanwhile in California, pilots looking to get a view of the seasonal wildfires have flown drones into danger zones, impeding the work of aerial firefighters. Firefighting aircraft were even prevented from attacking a blaze on Cajon Pass for 20 minutes while drones took up the airspace. The flames managed to sweep over a freeway, destroying 20 vehicles.

This poster from the U.S. Forest Service illustrates the risks of drone flying in wildfires. [Image Credit: U.S. Forest Service]
The government now aims to prevent irresponsible drone pilots, but as CNN explained, regulators are still playing catch-up to the new technology. Forcing new owners to register their machines will help enforce existing laws, according to law enforcement officials, but those laws are also struggling to strike a balance between responsible hobbyists and public safety.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, one of the issues is police use of drones. In North Dakota, a law slipped through the state legislature that would not only allow law enforcement to use drones, but equip them with non-lethal weapons like tasers or rubber bullets.

As for the registration system, the government will work with the unmanned aircraft industry to create the federal registry system, which could be initiated as early as Christmas. If officials work fast enough, they may be able to register some of the one million new consumer drones expected to unwrapped this holiday season.

Of course, there are numerous positive uses for the new technology. CBS News reports that a company known as Agribotix is selling drones to farmers so they can more easily spot problems in their thousands of acres of crops. Then, of course, there is Amazon’s ambitious plan for drone delivery services, complete with a “super highway” in the sky for safety. The new federal register for drones may be off-putting for some, but it’s another sign of the industry’s maturity and popularity.

[Image Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images]