back to article Get ready to register your drones in the US – or else

The US Department of Transportation (DoT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are drawing up rules requiring people to register their drones. The DoT and FAA said in a joint statement Monday that they will be forming a task force to write registration guidelines, with a deadline of November 20. The 25-30 person …

  1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    Good idea/Bad idea

    On the one hand, I can certainly see where this is needed - especially for units large/powerful enough to interfere with other aircraft.

    On the other hand, this statement: "The DoT noted that the requirement for registration will not be all-inclusive. Toys and smaller drones that don't fly at a high enough altitude to interfere with other aircraft would be exempted from the registration rules. " This is a bad idea because many complaints are from "regular citizens" who don't like nosy neighbor's expensive toys which are perceived to be spying/ogling them and/or their children. And such citizens would, apparently, need to continue taking care of the matter themselves because these smaller/less powerful models would be exempted from regulation.

    My biggest problem with this is, over on this side of the Atlantic, government regulation usually starts out with the best of intentions but inevitably gets wrong way round in implementation, bogged down in details, etc. My worry is that, as is often the case, the wrong people will end up on the losing end of this.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: Good idea/Bad idea

      To be fair, someone taking a peek at your bedroom window can be dealt with via mobile phone video footage and a call to the cops - the immediate danger is limited, even if the invasion of privacy is rather disturbing.

      A two kilo carbon chassis'd GPS operated quadcopter with a realistic flight ceiling of several thousand feet, being operated well out of line of sight, smacking a passenger craft requires far more direct action.

      The former has existing laws regarding breach of privacy/antisocial behaviour/breach of the peace/voyeurism to cover it. The latter needs amendments to aviation regs, which is what this is proposing.

      If it stops numpties with £1000+ walking around money buying a Phantom3 on a whim and flying it over a motorway, but allows those of us who don't have a problem sticking to existing RC regs and best practises (public liability insurance etc) then I'm pretty chilled about it, if I'm honest.

      Steven "just inherited two chunky RC choppers from his recently deceased father" R

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: Good idea/Bad idea

        "A two kilo carbon chassis'd GPS operated quadcopter with a realistic flight ceiling of several thousand feet, being operated well out of line of sight, smacking a passenger craft requires far more direct action."

        - Agree completely and I believe this is the exact scenario behind the regulation

        "To be fair, someone taking a peek at your bedroom window can be dealt with via mobile phone video footage and a call to the cops - the immediate danger is limited, even if the invasion of privacy is rather disturbing."

        - the difficulty is proving intent. There have been a number of these cases in the US. In many of them, the plod say no one can legally prove spying/voyeurism/etc because the video footage wasn't recorded. In others, the law is sufficiently gray (or non-existent) that nothing can be done - hence the "12 bore solution." I'm not saying that's necessarily the right solution, but it is often the only one available to end the problem. You might go to jail for blasting the drone but you WILL for blasting the drone operator.

        It was actually simpler when the only options were the "chunky RC helicopters" that were painfully expensive with a rather steep learning curve. Best of luck with those.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Good idea/Bad idea

        allows those of us who don't have a problem sticking to existing RC regs and best practises (public liability insurance etc) then I'm pretty chilled about it, if I'm honest.

        Problem is the thicko public don't know the difference. There is a start up business near me that uses Quads to make aerial footage for any number of purposes. All fully licensed for aerial work, trained, insured and get all the permissions. Unfortunately there are people who have sucked in all the FUD and so the police are constantly being called on them, wasting everybody's time.

        Anybody who damages one, or takes possession of one will probably be done for criminal damage or theft, regardless of whether they think it was snooping on them.

        I quite like the idea of them, but I don't think it's worth the hassle from the kneejerk tabloid faithful.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Good idea/Bad idea

      The catch here is one of "who's drone is it?". Unless it falls out of the sky and the SN or maybe a side number is present... how would you know? Yes, there might be a requirement to have the controlling radio broadcast an ID number, but those can be faked as we in tech well know.

      1. Crazy Operations Guy

        "who's drone is it?"

        if it comes within arms reach of my apartment, then it becomes mine...

    3. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Good idea/Bad idea

      Drones are dangerous in the wrong hands and need to be registered unless you want to face the full weight of the law.

      A semi-automatic M-16 with 30 round mags can be bought over the counter in certain states for cash. No need to register that. 262 school shootings in the US since Columbine.

      American legislative priorities need a bit of tweaking.

  2. ratfox

    What's a drone?

    What's the difference between a drone and a remote-controlled toy? The former are apparently a big deal, the latter have existed for decades without regulation required.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: What's a drone?

      There are some common sense regs about using RC planes and helicopters, but because they are generally expensive and difficult to control, they've not really needed much 'enforcing' - if you're prepared to learn how to fly an RC helicopter (my old man reckoned the RC choppers were more difficult than the real thing, and no less dangerous if you drop them into a crowd - those blades are nasty) then you're generally prepared to take them away from crowded areas, or get liability insurance if you're doing displays.

      Modern quadcopters with six-axis stabilisation (and GPS, etc) - aka drones, although technically only the autonomous ones are drones really - are staggeringly easy to use in comparison and so are getting a *lot* more traction with the casual user, who might not take the regs very seriously.

      So it's a case of market reach as much as anything else. When cars first started coming around, it wasn't till more people started being able to use them that licensing to operate them was required, etc. (OK, poor analogy, but you get the drift)

      Steven R

    2. Dillon Pyron

      Re: What's a drone?

      What's a drone? A $200 quad copter? Or a $6000 RC airplane? Or a $10,000 RC airplane?

      People seem to think that remote controlled aircraft suddenly appeared. Nah, I think not.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: What's a drone?

        I have a colleague who is well into his RC gear - he gets proper annoyed when everything from a Hubsan X4 to a Phantom 3 to one of those bonkers hexcopters gets lumped in as 'drones'.

        I think - and feel free to correct me - that a drone is generally defined as something that has semi/fully autonomus flight pathing; IE you can let the hands off the sticks and it'll stay in the same place.

        Something like a Hubsan X4 is a quadcopter as there's no automated guidance.

        For the purposes of the article though, a drone is something that annoys people that vaguely fits the quadcopter description, I think.

        Steven R

        PS: A touch of research suggests that one of the RC choppers I've inherited is 600 scale, the other 700 - proper child decapitators...

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: What's a drone?

          Even collective pitch model helis are gyro stablised now so that they are a doddle to fly as long as you are not attempting "3D" stuff with it because you just set "easy" parameters into the RC transmitter. I was surprised to get flying one with about 5 minutes instruction, as long as you have plenty of space.

    3. Keith Glass

      Re: What's a drone?

      Exactly. I've seen R/C planes that were HUGE, compared to many of these drones. . .

  3. Harry the Bastard
    Pirate

    they've not thought this one through...

    ...just equip your drone with a gun and invoke the second amendment

    drone registration would be no less than gun registration, which of course is totally unacceptable, call out the nra, march on washington, lynch that african muslim guy, etc.

    job done, stand by for strafing

    1. kain preacher

      Re: they've not thought this one through...

      Except civilians can't own armed aircraft in the US.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: they've not thought this one through...

        True.. legally that is. There have been more than few armed illegally however but so far just for making Youtube vids, etc.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the meantime feel free to keep buying the guns........

  5. John Tserkezis

    "Toys and smaller drones that don't fly at a high enough altitude to interfere with other aircraft would be exempted from the registration rules"

    Notice how they don't give a clear number on what defines "enough altitude"?

    It gives them enough scope to cover toys if they feel like it.

    1. Nunyabiznes

      @JT,

      True but around here there is a 500ft minimum AGL regulation unless you are in the landing pattern (or have a pre-approved flight plan over non-regulated airspace). That should leave separation for the toys (most of the ones I could afford probably wouldn't make it vertically 500ft before something failed) and manned aircraft. There is an issue with the unlicensed "aircraft" such as powered 'chutes and ultralights that are under different guidelines than traditional aircraft. I'm not positive what those are unfortunately and there could be some overlap between them and the "toy" drones.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        In the right places its 500 feet from any vehicle, vessel, person or structure except for the purposes of take off or landing. So, hedge hopping is actually possible inside the law (but quite tricky to find those places in the crowded UK).

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Notice how they don't give a clear number on what defines "enough altitude"?"

      Well, it is only a talking shop at the moment. That is the sort of thing they want to discuss so as not to inconvenience the normal, sensible people. It all starts with good intentions....

  6. Jonbays

    Drones will need to be registered as their use and popularity increase and I think much like motorised bicycles you pick a power output like 250Watts or total vehicle weight or similar to determine when a Drone starts to represent a vehicle that needs to be registered, insured and requires a licenced operator.

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Simple to define - if it houses a camera, it's a drone. Don't know of anyone using a drone without at least one GoPro on it. Smaller 'toys' don't really have the power or endurance to cope with flying anywhere dangerous to post on YouTube.

    1. Preston Munchensonton
      FAIL

      Simple to define - if it houses a camera, it's a drone.

      So the cameras are the dangerous part? Like gun regulation in the US, setting that simple standard will introduce a simple loophole that many people will choose to exploit.

      But don't worry. There's a whole task force of highly-paid bureaucrats seeking input from their crony capitalists friends on what companies should succeed and which should not.

    2. Gordon861

      They do a Hubsan X4 with camera, they even do an FPV one too, is that a drone or a toy.

  8. Kev99 Silver badge

    This is an example of two things. First, how paranoid the US government has become. Second, how the young folk of today don't give a damn about others. When I was growing up, the big thing was radio controlled model airplanes. And, yes, the could carry still and movie cameras. However, you seldom if ever heard of some snot nosed shit trying to buzz an airport. That just wasn't done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly right

      But this is a perfect time to show the normal methodology of how laws are created: most laws are in response to an event, not in anticipation of it. You can't make a law governing teleportation, for example...because it doesn't exist yet, so you have no idea what to legislate.

      In other words, regretfully the drone community has brought this upon itself. It appears that too many "snot nosed shit(s)" are out there, with their new drone toys, causing trouble because they feel that they should have the right to do just-about-anything without cause or concern for others. So now we have to go create a law, and the paperwork, to make sure these fools behave themselves and won't place other people in danger just because they want to spend money on something, and then flagrantly use and display it without a care in the world.

      We have "too many laws"...because we have too many morons. We need fewer "Use condoms - Don't let this happen to you!" poster children.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Second, how the young folk of today don't give a damn about others. When I was growing up, the big thing was radio controlled model airplanes. And, yes, the could carry still and movie cameras. However, you seldom if ever heard of some snot nosed shit trying to buzz an airport. That just wasn't done."

      Bingo!

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "However, you seldom if ever heard of some snot nosed shit trying to buzz an airport. That just wasn't done."

      Sadly, that's because back then they cost a lot of money based on average income, had a relatively steep learning curve and were easily crashed by the inexperienced. It took significant time and money to get into the bigger faster stuff.

      With modern quadcopters and their ilk, they are relatively cheap and incredibly easy to fly with only a few minutes practice and much more robust/repairable.

  9. Gene Cash Silver badge
    WTF?

    How are they going to enforce it?

    How are you going to tell it's a non-registered drone? And then how can you keep people from building them?

    Don't they understand it's fairly simple to build one on your kitchen table?

    Building a large drone is not much harder than building up a PC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How are they going to enforce it?

      If they catch you doing something stupid with a registered drone, you get done for doing stupid shit.

      If they catch you doing something stupid with an un-registered drone, you get done for doing stupid shit and you get done for not registering your drone.

      Clubs, events will be checking registrations. Your neighbors will shop you to cops if it flies into their fence. Your insurance will use it as a get out clause. All the usual ways...

      1. DropBear

        Re: How are they going to enforce it?

        So basically all you need is a DIY-able cheap-enough-to-be-quasi-disposable non-line-of-sight drone (in 3...2...1...) and you're basically golden.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How are they going to enforce it?

        and you get done for not registering your drone

        If you're caught. A rather high proportion of the publicly reported air misses appear to involve the drone operator not being caught. So I think you're believing the flawed logic here: "If all drones were registered, we'd know who to go and arrest". This is the same failed logic that says if guns are registered then you'll know who to arrest when one is misused.

        By definition, those dim enough or dangerous enough to fly into controlled airspace will be dim or dangerous enough not to register their drone. Typical knee jerk law making, involving extra admin and nuisance, more box ticking public sector numpties, but not addressing the problem. The obvious solution is the same way that some airports deal with birds - use a shotgun wielded by somebody who knows how to use it safely. The risks of a falling drone are considerably less than the risks of collision with a manned aircraft. And the idiots will soon learn when their toys have been destroyed.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm just waiting for them to be called "instruments of terror"

    and anyone using them is obviously a terrorist.

    All it will take is for one to be used in a suspected terror incident.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I'm just waiting for them to be called "instruments of terror"

      I think that day is coming... It's fairly easy to arm one as Youtubers have shown. We just need one slightly unhinged person or dedicated "jihadist without a deathwish*" and it'll be all over the news and the FAA will take the piss for it.

      When I was kid, we'd affix model airplane glow plugs to the wing undersides, run the wires to an unused servo port on the receiver. Put a firecracker or cherry bomb fuse in the glowplug and go bomb the back yard. Today, if we did that, we'd be in Gitmo so fast it would make our heads spin.

      *Well, if he doesn't die in the attack, he won't go to wherever the virgins are....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years late

    But better late than never.

  12. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    So...

    this explains why LOHAN hasn't gotten clearance yet - the two "toy" dudes at the FAA have been busy worrying about drone regulations, not ballockets.

    Maybe future generations will finally see LOHAN blast off. Right about the time everyone gets their own private spaceship.

    Bloody regulators...

  13. Ray Foulkes

    Just one little, innocuous step...

    First registration, then regulation "each drone must pass its safety test annually" - $100, then taxation - each drone must have a "flight licence" - $500 per annum (to repair broken air and to pay the bureaucrats who impose the tax), then training - "each drone operator must have his/her pilots licence" - mandatory $5000 training course, then insurance "each drone must carry its insurance certificate" - $300 per year, then RIPA rules (or USA equiv) - "every video recorded must be deposited with (insert snooping authority)" - can anyone think of any more bureaucracy that can be crammed in?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just one little, innocuous step...

      Don't forget the annual flight physical for the drone operator. Wouldn't want a drone operator to drop dead of a heart attack during stressful maneuvering around a tree, would we?

  14. PaulFrederick

    It is about time the government is going to do something about the drone menace. The assholes only brought on themselves.

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