Drone Hobbyists Wary of Government’s Proposed Registration Rules
The news that the federal government plans to require recreational unmanned aircraft — commonly called drones — to be registered has hobbyists worried.
The rules are far from final, having only just been proposed by the Department of Transportation, and everything from costs, fines, enforcement and exceptions have yet to be hammered out.
But for some involved with the hobby, the mere prospect of having to register rubs them wrong way.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics, the country’s biggest model aircraft and drone hobby organization, is aiming to make sure any law requiring registration is a reasonable one. It will be on the task force established by the Transportation Department to figure out the details.
“The term UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] has been applied to a broad range of platforms from toys with limited capabilities to large, sophisticated systems that weigh hundreds of pounds,” the AMA said in a statement. “Registration of UAS that meet an appropriate threshold of weight, capability and other safety-related characteristics makes sense, but it should not become a prohibitive burden for recreational users who fly for fun and educational purposes and who have operated harmoniously within our communities for decades.”
Erwin Atchison, who runs a hobby shop in Connecticut that sells drones, plans to wait and see before passing judgment — although he’s not overly optimistic.
“I think it’s inevitable something had to be done — we’re flying machines with blades rotating at 15,000 rpm, they can hurt someone pretty bad. But many of us have been flying for 30, 40 years without an issue,” Irwin told NBC News.
“What if someone buys one online, from China? And what’s the penalty for not registering? Are they going to send black SUVs to every flying field in the country?”
NBC News contacted dronemaker DJI, which makes several very popular drone models, for comment but has received no response.
The forums at RCGroups, where thousands of recreational fliers meet to discuss drones and radio-controlled planes online, are full of debate over the proposed rules.
Some users were unapologetically hostile. “I dont know if I trust these guys to regulate something like this. Most of them can barely operate a computer,” wrote one poster.
Said another: “I will not register any small battery powered toy I use for solely for recreational purposes. EVER.”
Others weren’t so alarmed. It’s just the end of a honeymoon period, said one: “The fact is, we all fly in the National airspace…. That’s why we are subject to the FAA and their rules. We’ve had the pleasure of them leaving us alone for quite some time and the AMA lobbying for our rights. I am interested to see where this goes.”
More details on what will and won’t require registration — and what that registration would consist of — should be revealed by in the coming months. The organizations involved are aiming to get the rules in place before the holidays, when hundreds of thousands of drones are expected to be sold.