Despite Skepticism, Unmanned Vehicle Groups Join Drone Registration Talks

With the Transportation Department looking to require drone owners to register their vehicles, the government has asked a task force of industry representatives for input. The approach has drawn mixed reviews.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has a big ask of drone enthusiasts, and, so far at least, the groups representing the unmanned vehicle field are at the table to hear things out.

On Monday, the department announced that it will require drone users to register their vehicles with the government, whether the devices are being used for commercial or recreational purposes. The move comes at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a DOT subsidiary, has been slow to finalize its rules for commercial drones.

“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,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement this week. “It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

The registration process will be set up with the help of a task force that will include representatives from aviation trade groups and drone manufacturers. The group is to provide its recommendations to the Transportation Department by November 20.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)—whose members include drone manufacturers, government organizations, and others—emphasized its understanding of the safety concerns leading the government to seek wholesale registration.

“AUVSI welcomes the opportunity to join this task force of government and industry stakeholders,” the group said in a statement. “This collaborative effort to develop an efficient process for UAS registration should lead to increased accountability across the entire aviation community.”

Another drone-based organization that’s part of the task force, the Small UAV Coalition, had a much different take on the issue. It raised concerns about the short turnaround on the working group’s decision making, as well as concerns that industry isn’t driving the process.

“I have great concerns that the FAA and DOT won’t come up with something that will help us move us forward as a country in advancing this technology on their own,” coalition Executive Director Michael Drobac told Forbes. “This has to be led by industry.”

Meanwhile, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a group that represents model plane enthusiasts and hobbyist drone users, emphasized in its comments on the issue that the FAA’s rules should not affect small drones.

“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,” AMA Executive Director Dave Mathewson said in a statement.

Beyond the unmanned vehicle industry, the DOT is also welcoming representatives from airlines, including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), both of which emphasized safety concerns in their comments.

“As the operators responsible for flying passengers and cargo, pilots are hyper-focused on ensuring the safety of our aviation system, including the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace,” ALPA said in its statement on the issue.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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