You may have heard that the FAA and the DOT are currently evaluating requirements to register Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).
You can help shape any regulations that may come to pass by commenting (anonymously) here. Ideally beforeNovember 6. Using your own language may be best:
On this website you can find a document which explains in more details what FAA and DOT have in mind. At the end of this document they are asking a number of questions. Here is how we think questions could be answered/commented upon. Please feel free to use this as input if you wish to make a comment, on some or all of the questions asked, and in making additional comments.
1. What methods are available for identifying individual products? Does every UAS sold have an individual serial number? Is there another method for identifying individual products sold without serial numbers or those built from kits?
a) In case of a serious accident with a UAS sold commercially, a warrant by a judge will enable an investigator to link a recovered UAS with a sale, by using e.g. credit card data. Presumably because virtually no serious accidents have happened with UAS, there was so far rarely a need for such action.
b) There is a disconnect between ownership and operation. A parent may buy a toy UAS for a child as a present. UAS may be traded, modified, scratch built.
c) Serial numbers could potentially be used to identify UAS. However, this would require some sort of centralized system in order to avoid assigning the same serial number twice. Serial numbers could easily be removed. Scratch built UAS can be built without serial numbers.
d) When UAS are modified, markings may disappear.
e) The AMA recommends that operators mark their aircraft with their AMA number.
2. At what point should registration occur (e.g. point-of-sale or prior-to-operation)? How should transfers of ownership be addressed in registration?
a) UAS are sold by vendors around the world. UAS' are sold complete, or as kits, or even in parts. UAS can also be scratch built. Also, ownership at point-of-sale does very often not coincide with the eventual operator.
b) The only reasonable way to register a UAS is prior-to-operation. Even then there will often be no link between the original registration and the actual operator. Once a UAS is repaired or re-built any kind of registration information on the UAS may be lost, rendering the registration pointless.
c) Operators who aim to use UAS for nefarious purposes can simply scratch built from parts. There would be no way to register scratch/home-built UAS, meaning the registration requirements would do nothing to stop 'rogue' operators.
3. If registration occurs at point-of-sale, who should be responsible for submission of the data? What burdens would be placed on vendors of UAS if DOT required registration to occur at point-of-sale? What are the advantages of a point-of-sale approach relative to a prior-to-operation approach?
a) Point-of-sale registration would turn US-based toy and hobby stores into mini-FAAs. Vendors could not possibly comply, their business would simply be destroyed, leaving only foreign vendors to dominate the market.
b) If there is an extremely nefarious use of a UAS and the UAS is recovered, then there are definitely ways in which a forensic investigation could trace the sale and buyer. A warrant from a judge will make accessible the required information in cases where enforcement is warranted.
4. Consistent with past practice of discretion, should certain UAS be excluded from registration based on performance capabilities or other characteristics that could be associated with safety risk, such as weight, speed, altitude operating limitations, duration of flight? If so, please submit information or data to help support the suggestions, and whether any other criteria should be considered.
a) The weight of a UAS/aircraft is the main factor that determines potential damage in a collision. Ducks and gulls can weight up to 4 pounds and reach considerable speeds. Swans can weigh up to 25 lbs. Although bird strike can be a problem, most modern aircraft can handle them in most situations. Given this, UAS below 5 pounds should clearly be excluded from any registration requirements. Such UAS are smaller and lighter than many birds and do not have the potential to cause serious harm. A 'sighting' is not the same as a 'collision'! A case can be made to use an even higher registration weight limit, perhaps 10 pounds.
b) Small UAS can at most carry an optical marking, such as an AMA number. Since such a marking would be small it would be very hard to use it to identify such UAS in flight. So what is the point?
5. How should a registration process be designed to minimize burdens and best protect innovation and encourage growth in the UAS industry?
a) It is inconceivable how a registration requirement for UAS would not introduce huge burdens and hinder growth. It may be questionable if such a requirement is even legal.
b) The AMA has recommendations in place to label a UAS with an AMA number. Any more than such voluntary registration will burden the US based UAS industry, reduce science and engineering engagement and education around aircraft and will put the US-based UAS industry at a huge disadvantage over foreign competition.
6. Should the registration be electronic or web-based? Are there existing tools that could support an electronic registration process?
a) A voluntary web-based registration system collecting only minimal personal information would be least burdensome.
7. What type of information should be collected during the registration process to positively identify the aircraft owner and aircraft?
a) Do FAA and DOT have the right to personal information from US citizens wishing to fly toy and other small UAS?
b) How could the agencies possibly link ownership to operation of a UAS?
c) Can the agencies guarantee that the collected information is safe from hack-attacks?
d) Minimal information should only be required. Definitely not a social security number. Perhaps a name. The fact that most customers pay with a credit card already provides a forensic investigation with enough information to link a UAS recovered from a serious accident to an owner.
8. How should the registration data be stored? Who should have access to the registration data? How should the data be used?
a) Given recent security breaches there are grave concerns about storing yet more data about US citizens.
b) Access to the data should only be possible via a warrant signed by a judge.
9. Should a registration fee be collected and if so, how will the registration fee be collected if registration occurs at point-of-sale? Are there payment services that can be leveraged to assist (e.g. PayPal)?
a) Clearly a registration fee places a burden on US-based consumers and the the US-based UAS industry.
b) Collecting a registration fee will only serve to encourage building more scratch models 'under the registration radar'. Scratch built models can be less safe than UAS sold by vendors.
c) Collecting a registration fee will harm education, training, science, schools and colleges.
10. Are there additional means beyond aircraft registration to encourage accountability and responsible use of UAS?
a) A sighting is not the same as an accident.
b) There have been very few 'incidences' involving UAS.
c) There have been virtually no 'accidents' involving UAS.
d) The vast majority of UAS operators fly safely and responsibly. Registration requirements will do nothing to stop a few 'bad apples' as they can scratch build, remove registration information from a UAS, etc.
e) It would be far more effective if the FAA, in conjunction with industry, would go the 'light-touch' route and educate the public about UAS and how they should be safely operated. This would help the industry, would encourage interest in aviation and aerospace and would help promote science and engineering.
a) There have been virtually no accidents involving UAS, only incidents. Usually an incident is a sighting.
b) Safety is important! Most UAS sold to consumers are so small, below 5 pounds, that they are smaller than many birds, swans may weight up to 25 pounds for example. The damage potential of such small machines is very limited, they do not carry much kinetic energy.
c) In conjunction with point a, the vast majority of operators fly their UAS safely, e.g. following AMA recommendations. Registration requirements would do nothing to stop 'rogue' or 'bad apple' operators, as they can simply scratch build.
d) If there was a serious accident involving a commercially sold UAS, then it is very likely that the sale can already be traced by a forensic investigation using e.g. credit card information accessible via a warrant. Registration is redundant.
e) UAS are a huge source of science and tech engagement, education, training, industry jobs. Requiring users of small UAS to register their UAS will reduce these positive effects while at the same time doing virtually nothing to stop an even half-determined rogue bad apple operator.