Standing at the Albany, N.Y., FBI headquarters yesterday, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., urged his colleagues in Congress to include in the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill the Consumer Drone Safety Act, which would require drone manufacturers to implement geo-fencing technology or other similar solutions on all drones.
Schumer was joined by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and Deputy Chief Bob Sears of the Albany Police Department.
In June, Schumer and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the Consumer Drone Safety Act, which would also require other important drone safety measures. According to Schumer, the act would improve the ability of law enforcement to take action against reckless users and improve safety by ensuring drones are detectable and identifiable to pilots and air traffic controllers.
The senator cited a recent incident in Albany where a man crashed a drone into a chimney of the New York State Capitol. Schumer said there have also been incidents in which drones were spotted flying close to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, as well as the Albany FBI headquarters.
The Consumer Drone Safety Act also would direct the FAA to regulate recreational operations of consumer drones outside the programming of a nationwide community-based organization. These regulations would include a maximum height for flight; the weather and time-of-day conditions for flight; and any areas or circumstances where flights may be prohibited or limited, such as near airports, in the flight paths of manned aircraft, in urban areas or over public events where spectators are present.
“There needs to be a clear strategy to address the dangers of reckless drone usage. If a drone crashed into a plane by finding its way onto an airport runway or was able do harm by flying near highly populated areas and buildings – like the NYS Capitol and the Albany FBI Headquarters – we could see immeasurable damage done,” he said. “That’s why I am urging my colleagues in Congress to include this geo-fencing legislation into the FAA reauthorization bill this fall. By putting strong safeguards in place, we can eliminate near misses and rogue drones from our skies while still allowing hobbyists to fly drones for recreation in safe places.”
According to Schumer, this type of technology helps take human error out of the equation. The senator noted that manufacturers are currently experimenting with placing geo-fencing or other similar technology into their drones but said that all manufacturers should be required to take all reasonable steps to implement the software right away.
The senator emphasized that this issue is far too important to wait on and that Congress should act immediately to include it in the FAA reauthorization.