Yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the expected registration rules for small, recreational unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Beginning Dec. 21, operators of drones weighing 0.55 to 55 lbs. will need to provide their name, address and email address into a Web-based system for a price of $5 (waived until Jan. 20, however). Regarding these and myriad other provisions included in the rules, industry stakeholders – many of which were involved in the recommendation process – have released statements both commending and disapproving of what the FAA has come up with in preparation for a holiday season predicted to be flooded with new drone sales.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), which already suggests in its own guidelines that members label their model aircraft with operator information, says it is “disappointed” with the rules, which would be an “an unnecessary burden” for “members who have been operating safely for decades,” explains Dave Mathewson, executive director.
He says that although AMA believes “registration makes sense at some level,” particularly for “UAS flyers operating outside the guidance of a community-based organization or flying for commercial purposes,” it goes against “Congress’ intent in the Special Rule for Model Aircraft,” which “clearly states that the FAA is prohibited from promulgating any new rules for recreational users operating within the safety guidelines of a community-based organization.”
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), previously the Consumer Electronics Association – which says its members include “manufacturers, retailers and others involved in the market for consumer, recreational and hobbyist drones” – notes its disagreement with the $5 fee, which would “hamper registration and discourage compliance,” according to Douglas Johnson, vice president of technology policy.
Johnson says the FAA must now concentrate on two things: “informing consumers about the registration program and avoiding unnecessary and duplicative registration proposals at the state and local levels,” as “the myriad of misaligned and conflicting local rules now emerging across the country threatens to throttle this nascent technology.”
Both CTA and AMA note the importance of campaigns such as Know Before You Fly in providing operators with information on safe flying.
“Education programs like these are one of the best ways to ensure the safety of our airspace,” says Mathewson.
Brandon Torres Declet, CEO of Drone as a Service company Measure, acknowledges the fact that “drones are aircraft” and, thus, “anyone using a drone is now a pilot.”
Therefore, he says, in light of near-miss reports of UAS with manned aircraft, “A drone registration system is a step in the right direction in developing sensible regulations to keep the American public safe.”
The Small UAV Coalition, although applauding the FAA’s effort of “working with industry to promote safety and accountability and creating a simple, Web-based registration system,” maintains that certain requirements could “hinder widespread compliance and, therefore, detract from the safety and accountability mission.”
“Paired with a registration fee and other deviations from the [task force’s] final report, including a requirement for the registrant to provide an email address, the 250 g threshold is unacceptable,” says the coalition, which also suggests the FAA add a provision that would preemept state or local laws requiring registration, as CTA also mentioned.
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) says it has “long maintained that it is imperative that any introduction plan for UAS be thoughtful, deliberative and focused on safety.” The association makes the point that a $5 fee could possibly “discourage many individuals from registering,” says Sarah Wolf, NBAA’s senior manager of security and facilitation.
“Given the agency’s stated goal that the registration process should serve primarily to educate sUAS operators, we feel that process should be as inclusive as possible,” she explains.
Weighing in on the registration rules, Capt. Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), commends the initiative, which will “facilitate the enforcement of regulations and demonstrate to purchasers the responsibility that comes with owning and operating a UAS in the U.S. national airspace.”
However, Canoll continues, “ALPA believes the rule will be most effective through a mandatory process at the point of sale,” rather than after the operator purchases the drone, as the FAA has prescribed.
“We support the registration-requirement development process and welcome the accountability that the FAA’s rule will establish for those who purchase a UAS,” he says.
The National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) explains that even though there were “unquestionably divergent views” among the registration task force, the FAA’s rulemaking “represents consensus and compromise.”
Greg Principato, president and CEO, says NASAO’s recommended “emphasis on safety and education at the point of registration,” as well as “sharing registration information with state transportation and aviation offices,” has been adequately incorporated into the FAA’s requirements.
Similarly to NASAO, Brian Wynne, president/CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), says the task force “worked diligently to resolve their differences.”
“Though it may not be perfect, this process and final rule shows that industry and government can come together quickly to develop policy. We are hopeful that same sense of urgency will be applied to the larger issues we must address for our industry,” he says.
For instance, as AUVSI often emphasizes, the UAS industry needs the final rules for commercial operations, says Wynne.
“While the creation of a registration system is an important step to enhance safety, the FAA must continue its work to integrate UAS into the national airspace – starting by finalizing the small UAS rule. Putting the rule in place will provide the necessary tools and training to create a culture of safety that will help deter careless and reckless behavior.”
More on the registration rulemaking can be found here.