FAA Panel Split on Drone Tracking Details

FAA’s select panel of experts and officials couldn’t agree on how civilian drones should be tracked.

FAA headquarters
The FAA's efforts to regulate civilian drones hit a snag when a panel of experts failed to agree on terms.Matthew G. Bisanz/Wikimedia Commons

The FAA's panel of experts and law enforcement officials could not agree on the specifics of tracking civilian drones, such as what models should be radio tracked, and whether or not size and weight should be determining factors.

The panel is wrapping up as the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the first case of a drone colliding in mid-air with a traditional aircraft, an Army helicopter. While there were no injuries and the helicopter was able to land safely, the impact damaged one of the copter’s rotors, according to a preliminary report.

“I can’t stress how important this work is,” FAA chief administrator Michael Huerta said in a speech in Las Vegas at the InterDrone conference. “Tension between different interests and perspectives helps bring us all to the middle, creating the right balance.”

The FAA had drafted tracking rules ready last year but the FBI and other security agencies in the government objected, prompting the formation of the advisory group.

"The FAA will review the advisory committee's report and its findings carefully," the agency said in an emailed statement, according to Bloomberg.

The number of hobbyist drone owners is forecast to triple to 3.6 million by 2021, while number of commercial users will increase 10-fold to almost 500,000, the FAA said earlier this year.