The explosion in drone ownership and a corresponding increase in pilot reports of drone sightings near their aircraft resulted in mandatory drone registration beginning in December of 2015. Operators of drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), weighing between 0.55 lbs. and 55 lbs. must now register their aircraft with the FAA. UAS registration is in response to increasing concerns over drone operations in close proximity to manned aircraft as well as the potential for UAS utilization by terrorists or criminals.
The deadline for registering existing drones was February 19, 2016. Owners must register all new UAS before its first flight. Drone operators must display a registration number on their aircraft and possess their registration certificate while operating it.
The FAA has not released final numbers, but as of February 16 more than 342,000 people had completed online registrations.
Close Encounters with Manned Aircraft
Pilot reports of drone sightings near their aircraft increased significantly in 2015. Pilots reported 650 drone sightings to the FAA by August 9 last year compared to 238 in all of 2014. More recent FAA news releases indicate that sightings continue to increase and now exceed 100 each month.
While there are no confirmed reports of drone strikes on manned aircraft, the FAA considers that possibility a significant threat to aviation safety. The FAA, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently tested a drone detection system at Atlantic City International (ACY). The FAA describes the “Skytracker” system’s operation:
CACI’s proof-of-concept system employs radio frequency sensors at strategic locations around an airport in high, prominent locations. When the sensors detect frequencies unmanned aircraft typically use, it triangulates the signals and determines the location of both the UAS and the operator.
In addition to CACI, several other private companies are developing drone detection systems around the world.
Homeland Security Concerns
A high-profile crash of a quadcopter on White House Grounds in January of 2015, and a drug-carrying UAS’s crash landing in Tijuana later that same month, illustrate the potential for terror or criminal use of drones.
That same month, DHS and other government agencies convened a summit regarding the drone terror threat. Topics included the potential for weaponizing drones. Some experts fear UAS can be modified to carry remotely operated small arms or explosive devices, or even of being constructed of explosive materials using a 3D printer.
Implications for Aviation Hiring
Whether you are searching for new employees, or are a pilot looking for a new job, demonstrating an awareness of current affairs in aviation shows your commitment to aviation safety. A&M Solutions constantly monitors news affecting the aviation industry, such as the impact of drone operation and FAA regulations on flight operations, so that we can help you stay up to date.
Please contact us if we can help you with your recruiting or job-search needs.