We all knew this was coming. Recently, the Secretary of Transportation announced that all unmanned aircraft would be required to be registered with the government just as manned aircraft are today. We have watched drones fly around concerts, parties, school assemblies and know that many of these individuals have no idea how to fly them, and it is just a matter of time before someone gets significantly hurt. According to Secretary Fox, drone registration will help ensure that drone operators are educated on airspace issues and help enforce accountability by knowing who is flying, There will be a task force consisting of government leaders and diverse stakeholders who will determine the specifics of which drones will be covered – for example, toy drones could be excluded – and how the registration process will work.
The task force has until November 20 to complete its work and suggest a registration system. Then the Secretary would like to issue regulations by mid-December.
Until now, the FAA has required only commercial or public agency operations of unmanned aircraft to be registered with its Aircraft Registry in Oklahoma City. This is the same registry where manned aircraft ownership is registered, and the process for registering drones – regardless of their size – has been the same as with manned aircraft. This has required filling out multiple carbon copies and mailing them in for review by FAA employees or contractors. The process has been lengthy and time-consuming as the smallest mistake results in the paperwork being sent back for revision and resubmittal.
United States officials said they still need to sort out the basic details of the registration system but that they concluded they needed to take swift action to cope with a surge in sales of cheap, simple-to-fly drones that are increasingly interfering with regular air traffic.
The aim of the registration requirement, the DoT says, is to make it easier for authorities to track down people who fly their drones above the FAA designated-altitudes, or get too close to airports and other restricted zones.
It is expected that this task force will propose a separate system for registration of unmanned aircraft, which could include a streamlined system. Specifics on what would be required were few and were left up to the task force.
What are Florida laws on drones? The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act mandates drones can’t be used for unlicensed surveillance. Drones can be used for aerial mapping, to assess property taxes, and to monitor the environment. In other words, drones are to be used by a person licensed by the state to perform “reasonable job-related tasks.” It also limits use by law enforcement, against unjustified surveillance. The law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott in May, further requires that those using drone technology in such a manner must have written consent from the people on the property under surveillance if a reasonable expectation of privacy exists. The law applies to law enforcement and private individuals and was intended to go along with Florida’s 2013 law that requires police to obtain a warrant to use drones to collect evidence, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). The new FUSA law does allow exceptions for the use of a drone by a person or entity engaged in a business or profession licensed by the state in certain circumstances. However, this exception does not apply to a profession in which the authorized scope of practice includes obtaining information about the identity, habits, conduct, movements, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, reputation, or character of any society, person or group of persons. One of the most important stipulations of the law is that individuals who feel their privacy has been violated under the terms of the law may now sue for civil damages and injunctive relief and be awarded attorneys’ fees if they are successful.