Rouge drone sightings are not only disruptive but also pose a huge challenge to authorities. Be it the drones spotted at Gatwick and Heathrow Airports which led to the grounding and diversion of hundreds of flights, or similar instances at Dubai International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. The most recently reported incident being the drone which flew over Fenway Park last week during a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.
According to Reuters a pair of senators quoted the Fenway Park incident while urging the FAA to “swiftly publish” a proposed rule for remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems, otherwise known as drones. The U.S. Congress tasked the FAA in 2016 with issuing regulations or guidance by July 2018 that could permit the public, the FAA, law enforcement, and others to remotely track and identify drones and their operators during flight.
Saying that such a rule would help address a rising number of unauthorized drone flights Senators Edward Markey, a Democrat, and John Thune, a Republican, dashed off a letter to Chao on Monday which reportedly stated: “Remote identification will enhance safety, security, and privacy, and serve as a critical tool for law enforcement to respond to and address reports of illegal and unauthorized drone operations.”
The FAA had said last month it plans to publish a proposed rule by July 21 and recently said that “drone ID and remote tracking are priorities for the FAA and we are well underway developing proposed rules.” With disagreement among industry and various federal agencies over software and hardware requirements for addressing privacy and data security FAA has been grappling with several complex issues behind identifying drones remotely.
Earlier this month, the FAA stated it was investigating a drone that hovered over Boston’s Fenway Park during a Red Sox baseball game. The drone seemed to be a DJI Phantom, the U.S. unit of Shenzhen, China-based SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd said, adding the “incident shows why the federal government must mandate a remote identification system for airborne drones as soon as possible.”
In January, the FAA reported 43 flights into New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport were required to hold after a nearby reported drone sighting. In January Chao proposed rules allowing drones to operate over populated areas to help speed their commercial use. The department noted they cannot be finalized “without a remote identification rule in place.”
Last week, Alphabet Inc’s Wing Aviation unit got FAA approval to start delivering goods by drone in Virginia later this year, making the sister unit of search engine Google the first drone delivery company to get U.S. air carrier certification. The certification is good for two years and has significant restrictions on when and how flights can occur.
Markey and Thune also requested Chao provide them with a written response “detailing what steps must be taken between now and July 21 for the FAA to release” a proposed rule for remote identification.
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