Drone Safety: Will Regulating Them Work?

Published: November 4, 2015

Editor’s Note: With the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimating that there are now more than 100 close calls with drones and planes per month (not to mention the other safety and security issues posed by unmanned aerial vehicles), recreational drone users will soon be required to register their drones with the government. Regulating this type of equipment, however, promises to pose significant challenges.

In this article, CS’ sister publication Robotics Trends describes 11 problems with drone registration.
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The U.S. government will soon require tech enthusiasts to register their drones with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to crack down on reckless flying.

The DOT, which supervises the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), still needs to figure out the specifics, including which drones will be included, how users will register the devices, and whether the policy will apply to devices that have already been sold. The DOT hopes to have the registration process up and running by Christmas 2015.

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U.S. regulators have been scrambling to regulate drones as they become more popular. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the “Consumer Drone Safety Act” which requires “that a consumer drone be detectable and identifiable to pilots and air traffic controllers, including through the use of an identification number and a transponder or similar technology to convey the drone’s location and altitude[.]”[2]

Moreover, Cory Booker’s Commercial UAS Modernization Act prohibits the operations of commercial small unmanned aircraft “unless the owner has registered the aircraft under section 3(a) of the Commercial UAS Modernization Act.”[3]

Be sure to check out our slideshow of some of the most common drones!

This presents interesting problems, so let’s dive into the facts.

Proposed Regulations and Forecasted Sales
Bloomberg indicated that “Amazon is selling more than 10,000 drones a month[.]”[6] 3DR “is expected to top $40 million in sales in 2015, which would roughly translate to about 53,000 units”[7] and in 2014, “DJI sold about 400,000 units-many of which were its signature Phantom model-and is on track to do more than $1 billion in sales this year, up from $500 million in 2014.”[8]

Oklahoma City is where aircraft registration gets processed. The aircraft registration process still involves carbon copy forms, which must be filled out perfectly and sent in for an aircraft to be registered. They are extremely picky on registration based upon my experience.

If the paperwork is completed correctly, they will send you back an “N” registration which is required to be displayed on the aircraft. The reason for the “N” is the aircraft is tied to the country in which it operates. (Think of license plates where the state is listed on the plate.) N = United States, C or CF = Canada, XA, XB, or XC = Mexico, B= China, JA= Japan, SU= Egypt, etc.  So N12345 is a U.S. registered aircraft while XA12345 is a Mexican registered aircraft.

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