Federal regulators have laid out a few more details about efforts to fast-track registration of recreational drones, though the document also highlights uncertainties about the idea’s scope and implementation concerning drone registration.
The government is likely to mandate some type of visual identification markings on many drones, akin to the letters and numbers required to be displayed prominently on the tails of manned aircraft, according to a formal proposal posted by the Transportation Department on the Federal Register website. In conjunction with registration requirements, such marking could increase the likelihood of tracking down owners while drones are in midair as well as on the ground—though the numbers are likely to be much smaller and harder to spot than on manned aircraft.
The document also underscores that such federal rules are aimed largely at educating new owners, arguing they are necessary to “create a culture of accountability and responsibility among all” unmanned aircraft operators. “Without increased awareness and knowledge” by owners, according to the document, problems will escalate.
“The risk of unsafe operations will only increase as more (drones) enter” U.S. airspace, it says, emphasizing that the current situation already “is troubling to the unmanned aircraft industry, to responsible model aircraft users” and practically everyone who sits in a cockpit.
In describing threats, the agency mentions drones spotted by pilots at altitudes up to 10,000 feet. And in recent weeks, according to the document, drones operating in western parts of the U.S. forced firefighters to temporarily ground manned aircraft on several occasions.
The language generally tracks points made by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxxearlier this week, when he announced the initiative.
But in seeking public comment, the agency shined a spotlight on a host of questions about the extent of the controls regulators intend to put in place.
The document, for instance, asks for public comment on the benefits and drawbacks of requiring registration at point of sale, versus when drones start flying. The DOT also is asking for industry and public input about who should have access to registration data, and whether payment services such as PayPal can be leveraged to facilitate any registration.
Overall, the document reiterates the agency’s commitment to encourage growth of the budding industry, adding that the goal is to develop “a streamlined registration process for small (drones), including model aircraft.”