By now, most of us are familiar with the use of drones. Over the past few years they have become a staple in the adventure filmmaking industry, allowing both professionals and amateurs alike to capture fantastic footage that simply wasn’t possible in the past. In recent months, the private use of drones has started to come under more scrutiny however, particularly as some drone owners have ignored safety and security concerns in order to fly their UAVs into areas that are off limits. Now, it seems the U.S. government is about to step in, as we received news yesterday that a new task force is exploring options for regulating drones moving forward.
This new task force falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The group has already begun discussing ways of improving the use of drones to make them safer, and to “build a culture of accountability” around their use, as DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx put it. “When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences,” he added.
The hope is to have a new set of rules and regulations in place prior to the holiday season when thousands of drones are expected to be given as gifts. The DOT would like to see the vast majority of those drones be registered with the government, allowing officials to know who they belong to and how they are being used. Smaller drones that fall more into the category of toys would not be covered by the rules, but the larger, more sophisticated models such as the DJI Phantom and Inspire series would be subject to the new regulations.
Just how bad has it gotten in terms of the abuse of drone? According to the CNN article linked to above, there are more than 100 incidences a month in which drones are being used in an unsafe way, including flying too close to commercial aircraft and entering restricted zones.
Exactly what the registration process will look like remains unclear at the moment, but what is clear is that the task force wants to crack down on unsafe drone usage. Once the UAVs are registered, it will be easy to trace them back to their owner, who will face fines and other consequences if the small aircraft are used in unlawful ways. The registration would also be applied retroactively to existing drone owners, as well as for the estimated 700,000 – 1 million that expected to be purchased over the next few months.
Personally, I think this is a good idea. As much as I love drones and the technology behind them, a lot of people have been using them for unscrupulous purposes. Hopefully these regulations will help cut down on some of that activity in the future, while allowing legitimate drone owners to continue using them responsibly.
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