A plan will allow most American airspace flying drones to include technology that would enable the government to keep tabs on them.
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration introduced wide-ranging legislation that would require all but the smallest drones to implement technology that would allow them to be monitored at all times while operating in the airspace of the United States.
“Remote Identification systems would boost safety and security by allowing the F.A.A., law enforcement agencies, and federal security agencies to detect drones flying within their jurisdiction,” said Elaine L. Chao, federal transport secretary in a statement.
Search and rescue missions frequently require at least four times that size, he said. By these laws, people will die, he said, adding that other industries that thrive with drones such as utility inspection, precision farming when drone operators, suppliers, and others interested in the rapidly expanding drone industry started to sift through Thursday afternoon’s 319-page plan, responses varied widely. While some congratulated the F.A.A. for creating a system for eventually identify rogue owners — potentially deadly — drones quickly, others said it would significantly hamper drone performance and cost-effectiveness.
Operators of all drones weighing over half a pound have been required to register their machines since 2015 by sending their names to the F.A.A. along with their email addresses and home addresses. Many government agencies, such as jails, are required to use devices to detect the presence of drones, said Reggie Govan, a former F.A.A. chief counsel who is now teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
But at the moment, officials don’t have a quick way to identify a drone’s owner or to track the location of drones that a particular person has registered. Even airports and power plants, Mr. Govan, said, currently lack the legal authority to track drones.
The proposed regulation allows all drones over 0.55 pounds to emit a particular type of signal at the simplest level. “You can have a device that can monitor all drones once you have drones that emit an identifier,” Mr. Govan said, adding that he welcomed the regulations.
Brendan Schulman, vice president DJI, a Chinese company which is one of the leading manufacturers of small consumer drones, said government and legal affairs industry leaders and government stakeholders have been trying to figure out how to create a kind of drone “license plate scheme” for the past several years. His primary concern is that drone pilots and operators ‘ costs and pressures remain low— something he’s still assessing. (DJI was involved in another government drone problem, with the security concerns that cameras and other technology on their drones could send data back to China.)
But the costs immediately struck him as unacceptable for Paul Aitken, a DroneU member, a drone pilot training company in New Mexico. The new regulations require all licensed drones to start carrying a particular type of remote identification Device that broadcasts in 36 months over the internet.
For areas where drone operators are flying, having an internet connection is often not possible, Mr. Aitken said. When you comply with his interpretation of the law, don’t have cellular service, or any other Operators will have to restrict the way they connect to the internet. Laterally to 400 feet, which is approximate to the end of a row— and back.
Missions of search and rescue frequently require at least four times the size, he said. “People will die from these laws,” he said, adding that other “industries that prosper with drones such as utility inspection, agricultural precision, land survey, ranch management, and even some construction management will suffer greatly” Because the rules impede performance, which is part of the attraction of drones for many.
He is also worried about the need for drone pilots to report their positions publicly. “Pilots need protection to shield them from fear-based residents who think they are being spied on by drones,” he said.
Nonetheless, a councilor from New York City, Justin Brannan, said he thought this was a step in the right direction. Flying a drone in most of New York City is currently illegal. “To operate lawfully and securely here in New York City, we need to create a framework for drones because I believe the benefits will outweigh the risks,” he said.
As the proposed legislation is called, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be available for a comment period of 60 days. The regulations become law at this level.
A Florida-based lawyer specializing in drones, Jonathan Rupprecht, has been left with many concerns as to how this would be applied. He noted that the F.A.A. has rarely prosecuted drone violations— e.g., careless flying or unregistered aircraft flying over the past decade. “More than they can chew, they should refrain from biting off,” he said. Mr. Rupprecht noted. It would be more practical to concentrate on areas that need to be monitored rather than developing an unwieldy tracking system for the whole of the United States.