At the urging of lawmakers and the public, the federal government today announced plans to require recreational drone users to register their drones with the government.
Details are still scant but officials say they are rushing (perhaps before a drone-toting Santa visits your home? ) to dissuade hobbyists from flying the aircraft into firefighting zones and near passenger planes. Thanks to a 2012 law passed by Congress to protect model-airplane enthusiasts, the FAA is prohibited from imposing new restrictions on recreational drone owners, which has prevented them from requiring drone users to obtain pilot licenses or undergo training.
Under current FAA guidelines, drone owners are not supposed fly their aircraft above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport without permission. But those rules are largely ignored and officials have been largely powerless to hunt down those rogue drone operators.
It’s still unclear exactly how this registration system will work -- whether already purchased drones will be grandfathered into the policy, and how --even if it’s registered-- law enforcement will be able to identify a rogue drone from far away. Critics are already concerned the registration requirement won’t have teeth and doesn’t go far enough to address operational regulations such as speeds and geographic restrictions.
Steven Miller, practicing attorney and partner in the Public Agency practice at Hanson Bridgett, in San Francisco, California where he advises local government, manufacturers and users on drone policy. He also writes the blog hoverlaw.com