Drones are incredibly useful tools for a wide variety of legitimate activities, such as capturing aerial photographs and video footage and transporting small packages. However, they can also be used with criminal intent. For example, they can be used to spy on people or locations. What’s more, they can cause problems when flown irresponsibly or in inappropriate areas. In particular, low-flying aircraft and avian wildlife can be put at risk by drones that are flown in the wrong area or in the wrong way.
Due to the risks associated with drones, the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration has launched a new drone register. Existing drone users in the US are now legally obliged to register ownership of their drones by the 19th of February. All future users will also have to register their drones. Anyone who owns a drone and fails to register it could face a severe fine, while individuals who misuse their drones could face criminal prosecution, fines and up to three years in jail. The FAA says that the register will promote a “culture of accountability”.
Professional drone users in the US could benefit from the introduction of a new register in a number of small but important ways. Firstly, if a drone is used irresponsibly or to commit criminal activity in their area, professional users will be able prove their innocence very easily by demonstrating that the drone is not one of the drones registered to them.
Secondly, they won’t have to worry about sharing the sky with criminally-minded drone users or individuals who simply aren’t flying their drones safely. In short, they are less likely to collide with these individuals’ drones, which would damage both devices. While this hasn’t been a particular problem so far, it’s likely it would have become one as drone use increased. With the register in place, the problem is now unlikely to emerge at all.
Thirdly and finally, if a drone goes missing or is knocked out of the sky, it will be easier for its professional user to retrieve it, as nobody else will be able to claim it by mistake, due to each drone being registered to a specific individual.
What does the drone register mean for the future? It means the skies will be safer and professional drone users will be able to use their devices with confidence. What’s more, it seems likely that it’s only a matter of time before drone registers are created in other countries around the World.
“As a commercial USAS pilot in the UK, I know how dangerous drones can be if used improperly and unlawfully. These regulations have been a long time coming in the US and it’s great the new laws are coming into effect so quickly.” – Oli Williams, Drone Pilot, Oxford, England (www.s8.co.uk)