Federal regulators announced a plan to require recreational drone users to register their aircraft with the government on Monday.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the FAA and the Transportation Department are setting up a federal task force composed of government officials and industry experts to create the new registration system.
Foxx said the group has until Nov. 20 to finalize its recommendations so the government can set up the registry before Christmas, when drones sales soar.
“The signal we’re sending today is that when you’re in the national airspace, it’s a very serious matter,” Foxx said. “This isn’t riding your ATV on your own property.”
Under FAA guidelines, recreational drones are not allowed to fly above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport without permission.
Citing “close-call” reports by airline pilots, officials say the rules have been largely ignored, making it impossible to hunt down what the mainstream media is calling “rogue drone operators.”
The task force will address the basic question of size limits and what kinds of drones will have to be registered. Most consumer models weigh only a few pounds and resemble toys, but many can reach altitudes of over 1,000 feet.
Foxx said the registration rules will not only apply to new drone owners but to anyone that currently owns one as well. He said the FAA would impose penalties, which have not yet been determined, on anyone who does not comply with the registry.
Still, registration of drones will be of limited use to investigators unless the remote-controlled aircraft crash and a registration number can be recovered from the device.
Most drones are too small to appear on radar and do not carry transponders to broadcast their locations.
Regulators say however that forcing owners to register their drones with the federal government will foster more responsibility in addressing safety because of the possibility that they could be held accountable for a collision.
Fox says although the FAA lacks the authority to license recreational drones, it does have the power to impose civil fines on anyone who interferes with air traffic or endangers people on the ground.
He says the FAA does have the authority to require the registration of any aircraft that flies in “national airspace.”