FAA Torn Over Drone Regulations

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Committee agreed adequate tracking technology currently exists, or could be developed rapidly, but couldn’t agree on what categories of drones should be covered under remote monitoring rules

WASHINGTON—An FAA advisory panel on drone regulations is split on whether to implement rules on tracking and identifying unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the committee agreed that adequate tracking technology currently exists, or could be developed rapidly, but couldn’t agree on what categories of drones should be covered under remote monitoring rules. One sector of the panel recommended that all drones be covered under tracking requirements, while another part of the panel would exclude drones that fit in the “model airplane” category. A a third faction prefers requiring remote identification on larger drones used for advanced imaging and longer flights.

The committee, made up of more than 70 industry, labor and security experts, drafted and submitted its nonbinding report to the FAA, which has not been released to the public. Objections about the drone rules appear to stem from security officials concerns over the ability to track drones that could be used in potential terrorist attacks.

The use of drones in a variety of sectors, from agriculture to defense, and especially for emergency and relief efforts and newsgathering, has gained more traction in light of the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.  “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in remarks to a drone conference in Las Vegas last month.

Huerta emphasized, however that regulations covering UAVs should not necessarily be the sole purview of the federal government. “Legally, the Federal Aviation Administration has regulatory authority over all U.S. airspace,” he said. “But successfully blending unmanned aircraft into busy airspace will require state, local, and tribal governments to build upon existing federal efforts to develop and enforce safety rules.”   

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