-- Hobbyist drone operators will soon need to register their devices with the federal government, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today.
A task force made up of government officials and industry representatives expects to establish a framework for a national drone registry by mid-November, with some rules in place by mid-December, he said.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of a spate of worrisome drone incidents. Pilot reports of drone sightings have quadrupled in the past year, according to FAA data, and the U.S. Forest Service has reported at least 18 illegal drone flights over wildfires.
In addition to educating operators about the rules governing drone use –- most notably, stay away from airports -- the registry will help law enforcement trace drones back to operators flying them unsafely.
“Right now, we have to go through a lot of steps to be able to identify who in fact was using a drone. This effort to register will give us the information we need to trace back to the user,” Foxx said in response to a question from ABC’s David Kerley. “Finding the drone has not been as much of a problem as finding the person.”
Certain drones, like toys and unmanned aerial vehicles that don’t pose a safety threats, will likely be exempted, he said.
The creation of the registration task force is just one component of the FAA’s efforts to integrate drones into the national airspace. The FAA is also working on regulations governing commercial drone use, which they hope to finalize by June 2016.