FAA Under Pressure To Issue Drone Safety Rules

Rules should have been written by last month.

Drone Monitoring

Drone Monitoring

UAV (Frankie Fouganthin/Wikipedia Creative Commons)

As industry watchers warn that as many as a million recreational drones will be sold this holiday season, lawmakers in Washington criticized FAA officials at a hearing on Wednesday for missing a deadline to issue new safety regulations to deal with the potential hazard they pose for air traffic.

The FAA missed a deadline last month set in a 2012 reform law. While the agency published a rule for commercial drone certification and operation last February, it has yet to come up with an integration plan and now says that a final version of the drone safety rule will not be completed until next year.

The FAA has developed two public outreach programs, the "No Drone Zone" campaign that was implemented, for example, during Pope Francis's U.S. visit last month and "Know Before You Fly," aimed at informing and educating UAV users.

But as the number of drones sold rises so too do reported sighting by pilots. The number of reports has reached 100 a month, a fivefold increase from last year, said FAA deputy administrator Michael Whitaker.

Rep. Rick Larsen (R-Wash.), the ranking member of the House aviation subcommittee, called on the FAA to do more to stem the dangers from recreational drone users.

"Those 600-plus pilot sightings suggest that allowing anyone to fly a drone on or near the nation's airways is like letting people drive remote-controlled model cars on the interstate," he said at the hearing. "Unless more is done, it is not if an accident will happen, but when."

Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.