Nothing says, “I love you,” more this holiday season than a smartly wrapped drone under the Christmas tree.
I’m kidding — sort of.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced plans on Monday to require owners of “unmanned aircraft” (Read: drones weighing between a half pound and 55 pounds) to register them. Those registering with the FAA must provide their name, home and e-mail addresses at www.faa.gov/uas/registration. Drone owners will receive an identification number, which must be displayed on the aircraft. A $5 fee will be waived if you register between Dec. 21 and Jan. 20, 2016.
The Consumer Electronics Association, an industry trade group, predicts 2015 “to be a defining year for drones,” with U.S. sales expected to approach $105 million, up 52 percent. That’s about 700,000 new drones taking to the skies.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement Monday that drone enthusiasts are considered aviators, “and with that comes a great deal of responsibility.”
A recent study by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York seems to indicate that many drone hobbyists don’t know the rules.
Bard researchers discovered 921 drone incidents in national airspace between December 2013 and September. Of those sightings, 327 “close encounters” were recorded with manned aircraft, 90 of which involved commercial multi-engine jets. The study defines these encounters as “near midair collisions.”
The study found 158 incidents where a drone came within 200 feet of a manned aircraft, 51 where proximity was within 50 feet, and 28 occasions where a pilot was forced to maneuver to avoid a collision.
In addition, more than 90 percent of all incidents occurred above 400 feet, the maximum altitude allowed for drones, and within 5 miles of an airport, also prohibited, the report said.
So if a drone finds its way to your home this holiday season, best to know the rules: faa.gov/uas.