A growing number of safety incidents involving remote-controlled aircraft has led the Department of Transportation to push for mandatory registration of the devices. Drones have grown rapidly in popularity and are expected to become even more common in the near future. This growth has led to an increase in the number of recreational drones impinging on national airspace. In addition, drones have caused injury and created a nuisance when operated improperly. According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, registration of drones would aid in education efforts and make it easier to match drones with their owners in situations where safety became an issue.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, drone sales will create more than $100 million in revenue in 2015. By the end of the year, nearly 700,000 new drones will have been sold. That represents an increase of more than 60 percent over 2014 sales. The rapid expansion has led the DOT to push for new regulations before Christmas, when many more drones are expected to be sold.
The DOT is not the only body looking to regulate the use of drones. The Los Angeles City Council has approved new regulations to penalize owners who fly drones near airports or people. California has already passed a law banning paparazzi from using drones to capture images over private property. The Federal Aviation has limited power to regulate drone use and is prohibited by Congress from passing new regulations restricting recreational or hobby use of small model aircraft.
An official at the Academy of Model Aeronautics expressed concern over the ability of regulators to differentiate model planes from more advanced drones. He pointed out that model aircraft are not a new invention and have been operated without major problems for many years. A registration requirement for vehicles that pose little to no risk could cripple an industry without accomplishing the safety goals put forward by regulators. One legal commentator questioned whether the registration requirement is a practical solution to the problem. Still, with the growing number of dangerous interactions between drones and larger aircraft, it is an issue that needs to be addressed in some way.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "That drone you want for Christmas will likely need to be registered," by Jim Puzzanghera, 19 October 2015