Google was spotted conducting more delivery drone tests Monday in an effort to beat competitor Amazon. But regulators are close behind, moving to require drone operators to register unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with the Department of Transportation much like drivers do with their cars.
After airplane pilots began reporting drone sightings and hundreds of near-collisions, the transportation agency sought to keep track of the number of drones in flight through a newly-formed task force dedicated to developing a new registration system.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has been working on guidelines for commercial use. Drone operators would have to “meet an appropriate threshold of weight, capability and other safety-related characteristics,” but not enough to be burdensome for causal flyers, according to the Academy of Model Aeronautics, an industry advocacy group that is a part of the Transportation Department’s task force.
Drone use jumped significantly after a federal judge lifted the FAA’s ban on recreational drone flight in 2014. Since then, drone manufacturers such as Australia-based Flirtey have taken to the skies delivering medical supplies.
Other tech companies are also eager to unleash the commercial potential of drones with Amazon and Google leading the way with product delivery tests, and Facebook exploring internet-delivery options.
Aside from increased commercial use and being labeled aerial safety hazards, drones have been criticized for potential privacy violations. Drone enthusiasts have dodged restrictive legislation so far with California Governor Jerry Brown refusing to sign a bill in September that would have banned drone flight near private property.