After a series of recent drone-related issues, some law-makers are proposing stricter regulations on the high-tech devices.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer today held a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Albany FBI Headquarters urging his colleagues in Congress to include his legislation that would require drone manufacturers to implement geo-fencing technology or other similar solutions on all drones, in the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.
Consumer Drone Safety Act
Schumer’s legislation, introduced with Senator Dianne Feinstein and called the Consumer Drone Safety Act, would also require other drone safety measures, and would improve the ability of law enforcement to take action against reckless users and improve safety by ensuring drones are detectable and identifiable to pilots and air traffic controllers.
In February of this year, the FAA released its draft rule on drone safety. However, Schumer said that it does not go far enough because it does not require the use of geo-fencing technology and other important safety measures to virtually eliminate the chance of a drone causing a disaster and limiting where it can fly.
The senator cited the recent crash in Albany, where a man crashed a drone into one of state Capitol’s chimneys as just one of many examples why geo-fencing technology and other important safety features are needed for drones.
Schumer said that while drones can provide recreational enjoyment, there is currently a lack of safeguards in place that help ensure drones do not endanger the general public by flying near airports, major sporting events, large parades and important buildings like New York State’s Capitol building and FBI Headquarters.
“There needs to be a clear strategy to address the dangers of reckless drone usage. If a drone crashed into a plane by finding its way onto an airport runway, or was able do harm by flying near highly populated areas and buildings, like the NYS Capitol and the Albany FBI Headquarters, we could see immeasurable damage done,” Schumer said in a press release.
Schumer was joined at Wednesday’s event in support by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and Deputy Chief Bob Sears of the Albany Police Department.
In addition to the Capitol drone crash, Schumer cited incidents in which drones were spotted flying dangerously close to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY as well as the Albany FBI Headquarters, where the press conference was held, as reason why Congress should include his legislation, which would require drone manufacturers to implement geo-fencing or other similar safety technology, in the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill.
Geo-fencing and other similar technology limit where unauthorized drones can fly through the installation of built-in software, firmware and GPS tracking imbedded into the device. This kind of technology helps take human error out of the equation.
Manufacturers are already experimenting with placing geo-fencing or other similar technology into their drones, however, Schumer said that all manufacturers should be required to take all reasonable steps to implement the software right away.
By installing geo-fencing technology or similar measures, drone manufacturers can ensure that their devices are not flown near sensitive areas, such as the Albany International Airport, military bases throughout the region.
In addition to keeping drones away from areas where large numbers of people could be hurt or law enforcement efforts thwarted, Schumer said that his legislation would also require that drones be detectable and identifiable to air traffic controllers and pilots. This is meant to prevent a collision between a pilot and a drone, a situation that could lead to deadly consequences. It would also help law enforcement locate reckless drone operators. Therefore, Schumer said this legislation could protect lives and ensure drones can be operated in a safe and secure manner.
Schumer said there have been incidents of drones coming too close to runways and important events and buildings in New York and around the country as well. For example, according to reports, there were several reported drone sightings by pilots this past summer that involved both JFK and Newark airports; the drones were at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 feet. Furthermore, the FAA recently reported pilot sightings of unmanned aircrafts have increased over the past year from a total of 238 in 2014 to more than 650 by August of 2015.
Additionally, a few weeks ago unauthorized drones were reported over the West Indian Day Parade in Manhattan and, in September, a drone crashed into the stands of Louis Armstrong Stadium during a U.S. Open match.
Schumer said these drone sightings are extremely troubling because a collision could put hundreds of airplane passengers and pilots in danger.
“That’s why I am urging my colleagues in Congress to include this geo-fencing legislation into the FAA reauthorization bill this fall,” Schumer said in the release. “By putting strong safeguards in place, we can eliminate near misses and rogue drones from our skies while still allowing hobbyists to fly drones for recreation in safe places.”