Dem senator to feds: Go further than drone registrations

Dem senator to feds: Go further than drone registrations
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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is urging the Federal Aviation Administration on its new requirement that drone users pay a fee and register their devices with the federal government. 

The Department of Transportation said Monday drone users will have to register their devices by Feb. 19, 2016, in a new Web-based tracking system that is being set up, beginning on Dec. 21. 

The agency is imposing a $5 fee for drone registrations — over the objections of drone advocates — but the FAA said it is waiving the charge for the first 30 days of the new requirement. 

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Blumenthal said the FAA should go further with its efforts to regulate non-military drones, however.  

“The FAA’s effort to register drones is a positive step for accountability and oversight, but much more needs to be done to address drone dangers," he said in a statement. 

"The FAA needs to combine today’s announcement with effective enforcement, holding anyone accountable who threatens air safety," Blumenthal continued. 

"Congress must act swiftly, empowering FAA even further with more authority, tools and resources to safeguard our skies from increasing dangers of these new devices, like requiring clear, enforceable operational restrictions that will keep these drones away from airports, manned aircraft, public areas and critical infrastructure," he said. "We must also require the installation of fail-safe technology in the manufacturing process, so it’s impossible for owners to misuse these powerful devices." 

The FAA has been in the process of developing rules for commercial drones, but the regulations have not yet been finalized. 

The agency said Monday that it decided to impose the new registration rules ahead of the upcoming Christmas holiday because sales of the devices are expected to be brisk this year. 

“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.” 

Blumenthal said the risk of collisions between drones and planes is still too high, even with the new registration system in place. 

“The most recent two-year report of close calls — 241 near crashes between drones and manned aircraft — should intensify oversight efforts," he said. 

"Now it is a matter of when — not if — a collision ends in tragedy in the skies," Blumenthal continued. "We need an aggressive, robust response, and we need it now. As a member of the committee with jurisdiction of aviation issues, I'll be fighting to establish tough rules of the road in our ‎skies above.”