During the Singapore Airshow last week, a top official of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that the regulator is planning to craft rules by this year to make it easier to identify drones and their pilots. The rapid growth of the drone market and the rising number of incidents involving these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) are the main drivers behind the need for increased drone regulation.

To draft the new rules, the FAA is working closely together with other agencies and industry partners, said Carl Burleson, acting deputy administrator of the regulator, during a panel discussion. Adam Welsh, DJI’s head of public policy for Asia-Pacific was on the same panel and also weighed in, pleading for a global set of rules that would save time and could be implemented faster.

DJI Inspire 2

Drone identification to increase drone security

Last week during a panel discussion at the Airshow in Singapore, Burleson said that the main goal for the FAA was to improve drone security this year.

“If we were simply dealing with safety, it would be a hard-enough challenge as a regulator,” he told the audience, according to CNBC. “But here we have a whole set of concerns and interest by the law enforcement community, by the national security community.”

“One of the first things we’re looking at, and hopefully get done this year, is some kind of rule-making on ID,” he said. “From the law enforcement standpoint, at least in our country, that’s pretty fundamental. People want to be able to track something — if something goes wrong, they can go back and try to figure out who is responsible.”

The rapid growth of the drone market is creating safety and security challenges that the FAA is trying to resolve with the help of other agencies and industry partners. Last year, an FAA committee suggested using an online database to identify and track drone and drone operators.

DJI argued against this proposal saying that it would require additional equipment to be added to the drones and thus make them heavier, more complicated and reduce their flight time. As an alternative, DJI came up with Aeroscope, a system that allows you to tap into the communication between the drone and drone operator.

DJI pleads for a global standard

Another person on the panel with Burleson was Adam Welsh, DJI’s head of public policy for Asia-Pacific. Welsh argued that it is important for the regulators and the drone industry to work together in assessing the risks and to create a standard set of rules that can be implemented across the world. Currently, most countries have their own set of rules in place and creating these rules and performing the risk assessments involve a lot of work and time. Welsh suggests that:

“Sharing those lessons more broadly so other countries don’t have to re-invent the wheel, I think, would be very helpful, giving countries a sort of regulatory template to balance risk with innovation.”

Welsh continued to say that DJI has taken steps to lead the way for regulators. “We came up with geofencing about four years ago so there are no-fly zones around airports. We did a return-to-home function and we’ve got capabilities around obstacle avoidance we’ve added.” DJI’s Aeroscope solution takes it one step further by creating an electronic license plate for drones.

There have been many near misses and even collisions between manned airplanes, helicopters, and drones. We have reported many such drone incidents here on DroneDJ. The latest and one of the most brazen examples is the drone that looped over the passenger plane landing in Las Vegas recently.

In conclusion, Burleson said that the FAA has three goals to accomplish. First, they want to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the U.S. national airspace. Second, they want to be able to make decisions based on the risk an individual drone may pose. And finally, the FAA wants to collect data that will help them to understand the involved risks better.

DroneDJ’s take

We have seen too many drone incidents occur already. It is not hard to imagine that with the rapid growth of the drone market, the number of incidents will go up as well. The last thing anybody wants is for one of those incidents to turn into a real accident. A regulatory system will be needed to make sure everybody will be safe both on the ground as well as in the air.

DJI’s Aeroscope solution seems a sensible one as it is open to other drone manufacturers as well and it doesn’t interfere with the physical design of drones. Aeroscope does not add weight or technology that doesn’t improve the flying characteristics of the drone itself. In our view, the solution does not need to come from DJI, but we do applaud the Chinese drone manufacturer for taking the lead in this matter.

What do you think about drone regulation? Too much or too little? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photo: Singapore Airshow 2018 – Airbus 2018 – P. Masclet / master films

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