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Hefty Fines and Years Imprisonment for Unregistered Drones

The proof is in the pudding, although the FAA means well by educating recreational Drone users to register their drones online, it’s still something they have to choose to do – even though not registering will result in a fine with a civil penalty of $27,500, a criminal fine of $250,000 and/or three years in prison.  Once registered, their contact information is added to the FAA’s national drone registry at, then the FAA sends them a registration sticker to apply to their drone.

Okay, so the idea of the FAA implementing their drone registration system is to do what?
• Is it to keep the Drone user honest?
• Is it to bust a Drone user if his Drone is flying around the Empire State building, another landmark or an airport?
• How are they “busted”- do we look up the Drone’s number on the Drone and match it to the Database?
• How do you bust the unregistered Drone user? Are they cuffed? What is the law?

In a perfect world, the registration concept would work, but we have many variables: the big one being Human Nature, The Cool Technologies with so many cool applications, the simplicity to crossover these technologies into something not friendly and, oh yeah – that privacy issue. So here is the question to the powers that be: Can you take a step back for a second and really do a “proof in the pudding test,” and from those results create solutions that will protect, save, and prevent the loss of life?

Not all Drone Users will register for whatever reason, from being skittish about their privacy, to liking the idea of being rogue or anarchist. They may think that not registering is somehow covered by the Second Amendment (this is going to be a huge issue in the near future). Maybe they just don’t feel like registering. Or they’re really terrorists, prison escapees, drug runners or others who want to use their drones for illicit purposes. Maybe they’re business people who don’t want to apply for an FAA exemption – these could be filmmakers, realtors or others.

So here we have all of these individuals that are registered (update as of March 15, there are now 400,000 registered drone users) and some will apply the drone registration sticker that the FAA sends them. I’m guessing those who place the new ID on their drones are using them for legitimate reasons or their consciousnesses don’t allow them to break the rules to “Fly Right.”

What about those people who Register their Drones and never apply the ID sticker to their Drones and by sheer accident they were goofing around or flying endurance flights and hit something and damage properties or kill individuals? Or they were a little more ambitious and flew above the 500-foot ceiling and venture into flying into the 10,000-foot zone, smacking into an airliner’s engine intake, killing many people. How do we track those users who registered the Drone and did not mark their drone with the FAA’s registration ID sticker? The current registration method is going to cause problems.

How do you capture the guy that just cause harm with a Drone that did not have the ID sticker, or worse, what if we were attacked by terrorists using a Drone Swarm method and none of those Drones have IDs? Now we’d have Big Problems.

It’s typical of the Internet world to cause an uproar over the $5.00 registration fee that must be paid by Drone users, saying that’s too much and calling it a “Drone Tax.” I ask myself, “So what if it’s a tax or a license fee? Cars are registered that way.”

Unfortunately, there’s a cost for system upkeep. How can someone put a price on safety or saving lives? The great hive mind of the Internet seems to believe that the “Net World” is supposed to be free. Ask AOL what happened to its network when they decided to make AOL access free.  Actually, I would suggest that drone registration should be charged in a way similar to the way vehicle registration is charged at the DMV and give all Drones less than 55 lbs. a specific classification that is processed with an Electronic Drone Security Identification Number.   The process of creating and implementing such a registration and ID system will be explained in another report.

The FAA, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, NSA, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Justice at the Attorney General level need to establish regulations that have teeth that are as rigid as what private prop aircraft and their pilots are required to adhere to. This includes having electronic ID and Physical ID that can be tagged, tracked and traced in-flight and on the ground.

The ID system should apply to airborne piloted and non-piloted Drone vehicles. There needs to be a reality check: in the Twenty-First Century a flying object that is less than 55 lbs. defined as a Drone is no longer a toy. It has evolved to become a vehicle that occupies air space traveling at more than human walking or riding speed. If we want to keep drones from accidentally or intentionally creating catastrophic events, then there must be a way to ID in-flight and on the ground which leads us to their owners. The group listed above needs to consider that all the Drones weighing less than 55 lbs. must be electronically identifiable in flight with realtime owner contact information, and purpose of their flight. That will make it easier to define lawful drone flight and identify and prosecute unlawful drone flight. It would be a good starting point and a good idea to implement the same principles used for general aviation to protect our nation’s skyways.

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Author PD Papo Whitmarsh

Technology Director and Inventor at WRG. LinkedIN

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