Dems introduce legislation to protect manned aircraft from drones

Dems introduce legislation to protect manned aircraft from drones
© Greg Nash

A pair of Rhode Island Democrats on Friday rolled out legislation that, if passed, would regulate drone use more tightly, with the intention of protecting manned aircraft.

Rep. Jim Langevin and Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE's legislation would make it illegal for individuals to fly drones near airport runways without permission from air traffic controllers and make it a criminal offense to fly a drone in a manner posing a safety risk to manned aircraft. 

“While drones provide exciting opportunities for hobbyists and have great commercial potential, they can pose serious risks to other aircraft,” Langevin said in a statement.


“This bill makes it clear that drone operators must be responsible for the safe operation of their vehicles to ensure the protection of air travelers in America.”

Earl Lawrence, director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, said that pilots are reporting increasing numbers of drone sightings.

In 2016, pilots reported 1,800 drone sightings to the agency — 600 more than in 2015.

If it passed, Langevin and Whitehouse’s legislation would be the first federal legislation imposing civil penalties on such drone use.

Drone companies, meanwhile, have expressed worries about regulations going too far and stifling innovation.