The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday announced it would soon require all recreational unmanned aerial vehicles, also called unmanned aircraft systems or drones, to be registered with the federal government, and would put together a task force to determine specific registration rules.
FAA said the task force will consist of 25 to 30 representatives from the UAV and aviation industries. The group will decide which aircraft will be exempt from registration due to size or safety risk, and will develop a system that will streamline registration. The deadline to return a report on these issues to FAA is Nov. 20.
According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the new rules are expected to be in place by December, just as retailers sell an estimated 1 million drones during the holiday season.
"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. "It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground."
FAA cites a growing number of reports of potentially unsafe UAV operations as a key reason for the registration requirement.
"Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly," said FAA Secretary Michael Huerta. "When they don't fly safely, they'll know there will be consequences."
National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said Tuesday that the group supports reasonable rules and regulations to govern UAS technology.
"As with any technology, unmanned aerial systems will make our farms safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. That's good for farmers, good for consumers and good for the environment," he said.
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"Most farmers who use a drone will do so over open cropland in rural areas, far away from airports or large population centers. We hope the Federal Aviation Administration will recognize the important commercial applications of UAS technology and create rules that will put the technology in farmers' hands," Bowling said.
Reaction from the UAV industry was positive, as many key companies and groups – including the Academy of Model Aircraft, Air Line Pilots Association, PrecisionHawk and others – were invited to join in the registration announcement.
Many touted the "Know Before You Fly" campaign and "No Drone Zone" education efforts headed by FAA as key resources for recreational UAV operators. Both will continue, FAA said, and the agency will continue working with stakeholders to improve safety to ensure further integration and innovation in the UAV industry.