Registration process marks significant milestone in FAA's safe integration of small UAS
Last month, Secretary Foxx and I announced that the Department of Transportation would work to develop a process for owners of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to register their aircraft.
Registration will instill a sense of accountability and responsibility among UAS pilots, and also will prompt them to become educated about safe flying in the National Airspace System (NAS). For those who choose to ignore the rules and fly unsafely, registration is a tool that will assist us and our law enforcement partners in finding them.
We are moving quickly and flexibly to establish this new registry. Our first step was to appoint a UAS Task Force to develop recommendations for a streamlined registration process, and suggest which UAS could be exempt from registration due to a low safety risk. A group of 25 experts were chosen, based on experience, from across the UAS and manned aviation communities. They included hobbyists, retailers, manufacturers, law enforcement, airports and commercial and general aviation. They were advised by the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and State along with the Office of Management and Budget and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. We also accepted public comments on the same questions we asked the Task Force to consider.
On Saturday, the Task Force will deliver its report to the Federal Aviation Administration. We will consider their recommendations and the public comments as we develop an Interim Final Rule on registration, which will likely be released next month and go into effect shortly thereafter. This step will be followed by another opportunity for the public to comment as we move toward issuing a final rule on registration.
The FAA's evolving work to integrate small unmanned aircraft into the NAS is the beginning of a new era for aviation, and we all have a stake in making sure UAS are operating safely in the world’s busiest airspace. The FAA receives reports on a daily basis about instances in which small unmanned aircraft fly too close to manned aircraft, often near airports and sometimes at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet -- much higher than they should be. This is an unnecessary threat to safety that demands the attention of the entire aviation community.
By some estimates, as many as 400,000 new unmanned aircraft will be sold during the holiday season. Pilots with little or no aviation experience will be at the controls of many of these aircraft. Many of these new aviators may not even be aware that their activities in our airspace could be dangerous to other aircraft -- or that they are, in fact, pilots once they start flying their unmanned aircraft.
From the moment pilots of traditional aircraft embark on their first solo flights, they are on a journey of lifelong learning in a culture that values safety above all else. We in the Department of Transportation believe this registration process is a positive step toward laying a similar lasting foundation among small unmanned aircraft pilots.
Michael Huerta is Administrator of the FAA.