FAA Administrator Michael Huerta posted the following on the Department of Transportation’s Fastlane Blog on November 20th.
His post is reproduced in its entirety here in BOLD, our comments in Italics.
Last month, Secretary Foxx and I announced that the Department of Transportation would work to develop a process for owners of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to register their aircraft.
Registration will instill a sense of accountability and responsibility among UAS pilots, and also will prompt them to become educated about safe flying in the National Airspace System (NAS). For those who choose to ignore the rules and fly unsafely, registration is a tool that will assist us and our law enforcement partners in finding them.
The comment on instilling a sense of accountability and responsibility is the exact reason why Registration ought to happen, and you cannot fault the rationale behind using it as a tool to assist Law Enforcement in finding individuals who ignore the rules. Fly unsafe, and the FAA now has a means of finding you.
We are moving quickly and flexibly to establish this new registry. Our first step was to appoint a UAS Task Force to develop recommendations for a streamlined registration process, and suggest which UAS could be exempt from registration due to a low safety risk. A group of 25 experts were chosen, based on experience, from across the UAS and manned aviation communities. They included hobbyists, retailers, manufacturers, law enforcement, airports and commercial and general aviation. They were advised by the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and State along with the Office of Management and Budget and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. We also accepted public comments on the same questions we asked the Task Force to consider.
The experts are outlined both in the link above and on the Recommendation Report Previously published in link form here. Suffice to say, it was a panel consisting of just about everyone involved with Drones.
On Saturday, the Task Force will deliver its report to the Federal Aviation Administration. We will consider their recommendations and the public comments as we develop an Interim Final Rule on registration, which will likely be released next month and go into effect shortly thereafter. This step will be followed by another opportunity for the public to comment as we move toward issuing a final rule on registration.
In other words, it is comment time, now, as the FAA WILL be implementing this rule soon.
The FAA’s evolving work to integrate small unmanned aircraft into the NAS is the beginning of a new era for aviation, and we all have a stake in making sure UAS are operating safely in the world’s busiest airspace. The FAA receives reports on a daily basis about instances in which small unmanned aircraft fly too close to manned aircraft, often near airports and sometimes at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet — much higher than they should be. This is an unnecessary threat to safety that demands the attention of the entire aviation community.
Those who rail against Registration have only careless and reckless drone flyers to blame. Remember, Drones are legally considered to be aircraft, and when you operate in the National Airspace System, you MUST follow the rules, or face the consequences.
By some estimates, as many as 400,000 new unmanned aircraft will be sold during the holiday season. Pilots with little or no aviation experience will be at the controls of many of these aircraft. Many of these new aviators may not even be aware that their activities in our airspace could be dangerous to other aircraft — or that they are, in fact, pilots once they start flying their unmanned aircraft.
That is the nightmare scenario of the FAA. Imagine a Black Friday crowd of WalMart shoppers with drones flying clouds of them near airports. Anyone who thinks Drones are no more dangerous to airliners than birds ought to keep in mind how many aircraft are lost to birdstrikes each year. Oh, and tell Capt. Sully how harmless birds are to airliners.
From the moment pilots of traditional aircraft embark on their first solo flights, they are on a journey of lifelong learning in a culture that values safety above all else. We in the Department of Transportation believe this registration process is a positive step toward laying a similar lasting foundation among small unmanned aircraft pilots.
They say you never stop learning in Aviation. When you do, you ought to stop flying. The Know Before You Fly Course is a helpful introduction to Airspace, and for anyone interested in greater depth of knowledge, we highly recommend getting more comprehensive training.