Retailers to feds: No point-of-sale drone registrations

Retailers to feds: No point-of-sale drone registrations
© Greg Nash

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is urging Congress to forgo requiring point-of-sale registrations during drone purchases as the Federal Aviation Administration considers new rules for the devices. 

The FAA is currently requiring drone users to register their devices by Feb. 19 in a new Web-based tracking system that went online on Dec. 21, 2015.

The Arlington, Va.-based retail group said Tuesday that the drone registration requirement should not be extended to companies that sell the devices. 

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“We were pleased to see the FAA propose an online platform for consumers to register their drones prior to use. As Transportation Secretary Foxx noted, the system has already been successful in registering over 180,000 UASs since December, and we hope that with more education, this number will continue to grow,” RILA Senior Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Kathleen McGuigan said. 

“Our hope is that the final rule will also eliminate the possibility of a point-of-sale registration process, which would be costly, inefficient, and difficult to implement, while also posing significant data privacy concerns for consumers,” she continued.    

The FAA has said the registration system for drones is necessary because of an increase in the number of pilots who have reported sightings of the devices during flights.

The agency has been in the process of developing rules for commercial drones, but the new registration rules also apply to recreational devices.

The retail group said in comments to the FAA that were submitted on Jan. 15 that regulators should stick to a "prior-to-operation" drone registration system. 

"RILA applauds the FAA for incorporating the recommendations of the working group and RILA’s suggestions and establishing a prior-to-operation and not a point-of-sale UAS product registration in the [Interim Final Rulemaking], the group wrote. 

"While RILA understands that the decision to move forward with a prior-to-operation registration requirement may have been the most expedient given the announcement and implementation of the IFR only days before Christmas, RILA urges the FAA to 'stay the course' and solidify the prior-to-operation registration system in the Final Rule," the group continued.  

The retail group said point-of-sale drone registrations would raise questions about the privacy of data that is collected from consumers of the devices. 

"In most instances, point-of-sale registration will require checkout clerks to ask customers to reveal personally identifiable information while standing in the checkout line in order to input the information into a registration system. This creates privacy concerns for consumers reticent about revealing personal information in such a public forum," the group wrote in its comments. 

"Even if customers are willing to share their personal information, a point-of-sale registration requirement would mandate that retailers not only capture and transfer information to the FAA but also assume the burden of storing and securing all registration data," the comment continued.

"This raises unanswered privacy policy and record retention questions such as: which privacy security standards are appropriate for the data; how retailers would securely transfer that data to the FAA; how long retailers would need to retain registration information; and the timing and process of purging registration information," the RILA concluded.