AOPA Calls for Tough Penalties Against UAV Pilots

Zeynel Cebeci/Wikipedia Creative Commons

AOPA is urging the FAA to take steps to address the safety risks of small recreational UAVs, including stipulating penalties for pilots who operate them recklessly.

The association made the recommendation yesterday in prepared comments at a House aviation subcommittee hearing on UAV operations. AOPA told the subcommittee that an "increasing number of incidents" involving recreational unmanned aerial systems pose a potential threat to aviation.

"It is clear that many of the people flying UAS have little or no knowledge of the rules under which other airspace users operate," AOPA wrote in its statement. "It is also clear from online videos that operators are flying near airports, in the clouds and in congested airspace."

AOPA told lawmakers it wants the FAA to provide clear guidance and improve educational outreach for recreational UAV fliers, while establishing penalties for reckless operations. Part of that effort should include guidance for pilots on how to file reports with the FAA on dangerous encounters with UAVs.

"Radio controlled model aircraft have been around for decades. The difference — and the challenge — now is the proliferation of low-cost, multi-rotor 'drone' aircraft that take little or no training to operate and are often flown beyond line of sight using 'point of view' systems," said George Perry, Air Safety Institute senior vice president, according to an AOPA article. "Technology moves fast, and government bureaucracies like the FAA do not. It's clear to anyone who has been following 'the rise of the drone' that there are several safety concerns and the FAA is struggling with how best to deal with those."

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