Users who fly drones for fun may soon have to register their machines. A new task force announced Monday (Oct. 19) has been charged with recommending a registration process for unmanned aircraft systems used for recreational purposes.
But farmers who want to use drones in their operations for activities like crop scouting and checking on livestock will still have to wait until the Federal Aviation Administration issues its final rules that would govern the use of small UAS in agriculture and other enterprises, said Peggy Hall, Ohio State University Extension's agricultural and resource law field specialist.
The proposed regulations, which FAA published last spring, would require commercial operators to comply with a certification process, which includes passing an exam. Operators would also have to register and maintain the aircraft and follow limitations on aircraft operation, said Hall, who is also an assistant professor for OSU Extension.
OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
"Those rules for using small UAS in agriculture and other enterprises likely won't be announced until sometime in 2016," Hall said. "FAA is working to create a special category that allows for small drone usage, which right now is not permitted unless you have a special exemption from FAA.
"The primary concerns for agriculture use are the proposed visual line-of-sight requirement, which requires that operators maintain visual contact with aircraft, a flight ceiling of 500 feet above ground level and no nighttime flights."
The task force that was announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Transportation and FAA is charged with advising federal authorities by Nov. 20 on a process for drone registration for hobby and recreational drones that would include both new and previously purchased drones, according to the U.S. transportation department.
Hobby and recreational drone flights are those that are purely for recreational purposes, as opposed to commercial purposes like agriculture, Hall said.
Federal authorities said pilot sightings of UAS doubled between 2014 and 2015, with incidents reported at major sporting events, flights near manned aircraft and interference with wildfire operations, the transportation department said in a statement.
The task force will be composed of 25 to 30 representatives from the UAS and manned aviation industries, the federal government and other stakeholders, the transportation department said.
The group will advise the department on which aircraft should be exempt from registration due to a low safety risk, including toys and certain other small UAS, the statement said. The task force also will explore options for a streamlined system that would make registration less burdensome for commercial UAS operators, it said.