Earlier this week the US Government announced that it would make it mandatory for all unmanned aircraft to have registration. The US Transportation authority is working on creating a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The task force will consist of 25-30 representatives from the UAS and manned aviation sectors as well as the government and other stakeholders. This group will then decide exactly which kinds of aircraft should be exempt from registration, for example toys and small UAS. The committee, which is to develop the recommendations by 20th November, will also recommend a way to make the registration process easy.

According to the agency, “Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system.”

MediaNama’s take: Registration by itself is not a bad idea. If the registration process is delegated online and easy to take, it will be easy for users to go register a drone or two. The committee will have to decide if enthusiasts owning 10-15 drones will need to register each drone separately or can maybe apply for a ‘drone license’. Similarly, the committee will have to decide on the case of DIY drones. These can range from barely capable to pretty powerful, so maybe registration can be based on power requirements or range capabilities.

FAA guidelines: Note that in February the FAA issued a number of guidelines for the commercial use of drones. The agency also offers rules for small UAS under 55 pounds (~25kg) conducting non-recreational operations. This rule limits flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits (pdf). So the agency already has a good reference classification system in place.

Drone issues in India: In July, the Mumbai Police issued an order banning the use of drones in the city, following an incident where online real estate portal Housing’s employees were allegedly seen flying an unmanned aerial vehicle over Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Deven Bharti, the Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) said that there was a blanket order against using drones in city limits without prior permission.

There was a similar situation in September last year when Mumbai residents were no longer permitted to fly drones, as the local authority had banned its usage in the city. The cops who had previously prohibited the use of drones till the end of last year’s Ganesh festival feared the misuse of drones and extended the ban until regulatory mechanism on the use of drones was established.

Drone regulation in India: There is definite need for drone regulations in India. The fear and uncertainty over the technology, combined with regulatory and bureaucratic ignorance has created an environment where drones are currently banned in the country. The Government even started cracking down on import of drones, with many being seized as they arrive. In April, we’d reported that the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) was framing guidelines for the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones in the country, post which drones were expected to be legalized. Meanwhile, drone enthusiasts in India will have to stick flying remote controlled toys.

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