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Feds to require drone registrations

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving to require drone users to register with the federal government.

The agency said Monday that it is developing a task force to craft a registration system for drones after an increase in the number of pilots who have reported sightings of the devices during flights.

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxGeorgia Power says electricity at Atlanta airport will likely be restored by midnight Ex-Obama transportation chief on Atlanta airport power outage: 'Total and abject failure' To address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead MORE said the forthcoming registration system would help to reduce the possibility of midair collisions between drones and planes.

"Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system,” Foxx said in a statement. “It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been in the process of developing rules for commercial drones, but the new rules would also apply to recreational devices.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the registration requirements are necessary to ensure drones can operate safely alongside commercial flights.

"These reports signal a troubling trend,” Huerta said. “Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly. When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.” 

Lawmakers who have raised concerns about potential privacy violations from increased drone use said the registration requirements would not be too burdensome for drone users.  

“We require car registration to ensure safety and accountability, and we should do the same for drones," Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Cybersecurity: Senators want info on 'stingray' surveillance in DC | Bills to secure energy infrastructure advance | GOP lawmaker offers cyber deterrence bill Overnight Tech: Alleged robocall kingpin testifies before Congress | What lawmakers learned | Push for new robocall rules | Facebook changes privacy settings ahead of new data law | Time Warner CEO defends AT&T merger at trial Senatorial attack on the First Amendment MORE (D-Mass.) said in a statement. 

"We have rules of the road, but in this Brave New World, now we need rules of the sky," he continued. "Standards for informing the public and promoting accountability must be put in place now to protect safety and individual privacy as the drones are taking flight.”

Drone advocates said they are glad to be apart of the process of crafting a registration system for the devices.
 
"AUVSI welcomes the opportunity to join this task force of government and industry stakeholders," said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
 
"This collaborative effort to develop an efficient process for UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] registration should lead to increased accountability across the entire aviation community," he continued.
 
Wynne said it is important for the FAA to finish crafting its rules for increased drone use while it is working on the new registration system, however.
 
"In addition to UAS registration, it is essential for the FAA to finalize its small UAS rules as quickly as possible. Once this happens, we will have an established framework for UAS operations, allowing anyone who follows the rules to fly. Considering that safety is at stake, time is of the essence to finalize the rules."
 
Recreational drone users, who have bristled at the FAA's methods of tracking close calls, cautioned that the registration process should not be too burdensome for hobbyists who are using drones for noncommercial purposes.  
 
“The term UAS has been applied to a broad range of platforms from toys with limited capabilities to large, sophisticated systems that weigh hundreds of pounds," the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which is also participating in the task force on drone registration requirements, said Monday. 
 
"Registration of UAS that meet an appropriate threshold of weight, capability and other safety-related characteristics makes sense, but it should not become a prohibitive burden for recreational users who fly for fun and educational purposes and who have operated harmoniously within our communities for decades," the model aeronautics group continued.