US prepares skies to track recreational drones

New online registration system to track the use of recreational drones criticised by some.

The FAA’s registration rule, which took effect on December 21, 2015, applies to small unmanned aircraft that weigh between 0.55 lbs. and 55 lbs (John Locher/AP)

With the popularity of recreational drones in the US growing, the government is doing everything it can to track who’s flying them.

On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that nearly 300,000 applications for unmanned aircraft have flooded their offices in the past month as part of a new law that requires a permit to operate one for recreational use.

People who don’t comply face jail time up to three years or a fine up to $250,000.

The FAA says the registration is needed to protect people and commercial manned aircraft from collisions but some critics argue it’s government overreach gone amock.

“The FAA should not be in the business of licensing toy owners,” argues Marc Scribner from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Although the new law applies to drones between 0.55 – 55 pounds, Scribner says, “many can only fly a few hundred meters from the operator and have 20 minutes of maximum flight time on a battery charge”.

There are no reported collisions between a commercial airliner and a drone but a December report by Bard College in New York identified 327 close encounters between planes and drones over the past two years.

Source: Al Jazeera