In light of increasing safety concerns about drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports without permission, in November the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined it is within the government’s ability to regulate drones. The decision overturns a previous judge’s ruling that aviation regulations should not apply to small unmanned aircraft.
The NTSB decision provides support for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has called for help in responding to a surge in drone flights. The FAA tightly restricts the use of drones, which could cause a crash if one collided with a plane or was sucked into an engine. Small drones usually aren’t visible on radar to air traffic controllers, particularly if they’re made of plastic or other composites.
Potentially dangerous drone activity is reported to the FAA by airline pilots, as well as other pilots, airport officials and local authorities. The government says it is getting near-daily reports – and sometimes two or three reports a day – about drones flying in dangerous proximity to aircraft or in unauthorized locations.
A drone industry trade group spokesman said more than 1 million drones have been sold worldwide in the past few years. Although the FAA requires that all drone operators receive a certificate of authorization from the agency prior to flying the unmanned aircraft, many ignore the regulations. Some misuse the drones because they don’t understand the safety risks, or just don’t care.
The NTSB decision preempts a March 6 ruling that threw out the FAA’s $10,000 fine against Raphael Pirker, a Swiss citizen who flew a small plane over the University of Virginia to film a promotional video without the agency’s permission. The Pirker case will go back to the original judge to rule whether the flight violated FAA regulations. It’s anticipated that there may be more appeals before the issue is settled.
Proposed regulations governing commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds are expected from the FAA before the end of the year. Congress in 2012 ordered the FAA to craft rules to safely integrate drones into U.S. skies by 2015, but the agency hopes to phase them into the system over a longer period, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a Senate hearing Jan. 15.
Drones are forecast to create 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first 10 years after the FAA allows flights, according to a forecast by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an Arlington, Va.,-based trade group. I am afraid that the safety risks associated with the use of drones may prove to create some severe problems.
Source: Insurance Journal
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