Thursday, December 24, 2015

Planning To Give A Drone Gift? Know The Registration Rules!

A typical drone gift - just bear in mind if it's more than a half pound it needs to be registered.

It's now Christmas Eve and many people are still scrambling for gifts to loved ones. One of the "toys" pumped by the media heads is the drone, such as in the graphic above. Some media outfits are projecting up to 3 million of these gizmos will be sold, but one questions whether all the drone gift recipients are aware of the new registration rules.

These rules were unveiled last Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal ('New Rules for Drone Owners') just in time for Xmas gift givers to know what's required before they purchase the product, which will generally weigh in at more than a half pound (the rules won't apply to the palm-sized drones).

For the heavier (1/2 lb or more) gizmos:

"Drone owners will need to register on a government website and receive a unique use number that they must attach or write on any drones they own."

In this way, any drones involved in collisions (including with homes or aircraft), or other nefarious uses (e.g. spying on a neighbor) can be traced back to the offending owner.

The WSJ piece goes on:

"Users who purchased a drone before Dec. 21st, when the rules take effect, will have until Feb. 19 to register. Drones purchased after Dec. 21st must be registered before the first flight . The cost of each registration is $5 but regulators are waiving that fee for the first 30 days."

The article goes on to note that "registration is the latest step in the drone industry's transition from a hobbyist community to  mass -market commercial industry."

Also, regulators - including at the FAA - want to signal to drone users that their machines are more than toys and misuse could have drastic consequences. We've already noted 241 near collisions with commercial aircraft from December, 2013 to September, 2015 (ibid.), as well as the recent drone crash near a skier in Europe -missing him by a few feet.  All the incidents in concert point to the need to regulate these damn things and that includes the ability to trace them back to users/owners.

As Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters (ibid.):

"Registration will enforce the need to operate unmanned craft safely."

Of course, there's been some backlash from hobbyist interests who still haven't processed their little "toys" can pose lethal threats. (Just one 3 lb. drone getting sucked into a jet engine might bring it down).

The Academy of Model Aeronautics, a model aircraft bunch, has said the requirement to register "violates a 2012 law that largely prohibits the FAA from regulating recreational drones". (Ibid.)

Recall this was the original bastardized law passed by congressional whores . The story about the law appeared originally in The Wall Street Journal  ('U.S. Skies Could See More Drones', p. A7) and came as a shocker of sorts. First, because it disclosed yet another federal agency (FAA) held hostage by congressional rats and the corporatist-industrial complex  - attempting to find new avenues for drone production since the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan were ending. And second, because it disclosed the extent of secrecy surrounding  corporate-benefiting information.

The piece also noted that some $63 billion had been spent over four years in the lobbying and rewriting phases.  It predicted that U.S. skies would be inundated with "tens of thousands" of unmanned drones sharing airspace with commercial planes - and this despite overworked air traffic controllers, as gauged by nearly 300 near misses per year. .

Certainly the commercial pilots themselves weren't too enthused. As the WSJ article observed:

"Barely hours after the 374-page bill became public pilot union officials urged a more deliberate approach. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 53,000 pilots across North America, said his organization remains worried about safety issues such as training and certification of those unmanned aircraft."

The article continued by noting that: "Safety experts also have raised questions about the ability of sensors aboard unmanned aircraft to properly detect a nearby plane, and to assure immediate action to avoid a midair collision".

Medea Benjamin also highlighted the same pernicious corporate lobby and congressional origin of this drone legislation:

 "They’ve been able to write the drone legislation and get their lackeys in Congress to push it through and get the president to sign it. But they are going to have to work harder and harder as we ramp up our efforts to educate the public.”

All of which means the Academy of Model Aeronautics has no legit leg to stand on given the FAA must watch out for the safety of ALL air passengers and cannot allow itself to be trumped by commercial bullshit or greed.

Thus, as the current WSJ article put it (ibid.):

"The FAA said it can require registration under existing aircraft registration laws, meaning failure to register a drone technically carries the same penalties as failing to register a commercial aircraft including fines up to $250,000 and a prison term of three years."

All of which is totally justified given as the WSJ wrote, that in 28 of the 241 near misses, "pilots had to maneuver to avoid collision with the drone".

So the braying backlashers need to put  sock in it and cooperate.

As Task Force member Brandon Torres Declet put it (ibid.):

"The drone industry is becoming more like manned aviation every day and we have to come to terms with the fact that the FAA is going to continue to put additional rules and regulations in place".

Drone gift buyers and the users in whose hands they will end up, need to process this new reality and cooperate as opposed to becoming scofflaws.

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