She has also called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase enforcement of existing laws.
Feinstein announced these intentions in a letter sent to FAA Administrator Michael Heurta. She says this builds on a letter she sent in July to express her “deep concern about the dangers posed by expanded domestic drone use.”
Four months later, the FAA responded to Feinstein with data indicating there were more than 190 drone safety incidents reported in the last nine months, including more than two-dozen near mid-air collisions, according to the senator.
In this new letter, she says these reports are “alarming” and that they “corroborated [her] concerns.” She requests that the agency “warn operators about the potential hazards and consequences of their reckless behavior.”
“It is my intent to introduce legislation to codify and expand the moratorium on private drone use without specific authority from the FAA that is already in place,” she writes to Huerta.
“This expanded moratorium would cover any such use that could threaten the airspace, it would require a safety certification for expansions of private drone use, and it would be backed up by substantial criminal penalties if manned aircraft or people are put at risk. I would very much appreciate your comments and technical assistance on such legislation.”
“It is clear that we have a serious potential safety problem which could cause a serious threat to life,” she writes. “Yet, very few of these incidents resulted in FAA enforcement actions, according to reports, even though the drones’ operations appear to have been plainly illegal.
“For example, many reports indicate commercial activity, flights above 400 feet in elevation, operation within 5 miles of an airport without authorization, flights outside the operator’s line of sight, or careless and reckless activity.”
Although the “proliferation of highly capable, inexpensive drones operated by untrained individuals is a new challenge,” she writes, “the FAA is responsible for the safety of the airspace.”
Therefore, the senator says, the agency “must pursue vigorous enforcement and strong safety regulations” and “aggressively confront this challenge now, before an airliner is brought down.”
She requests that the agency respond to her letter by Dec. 15.
The full letter can be found here.
The database of the FAA's reported drone sightings, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, can be found here.