LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Los Angeles airport officials Monday hailed plans by the federal government to require that drones be registered, a move prompted by the growing number of reported close calls and incidents that pose safety risks.
Los Angeles World Airports Police Chief Patrick Gannon said the agency “is concerned with the increasing number of reports of unmanned aircraft systems” flying close to airplanes and other manned aircraft.READ MORE: Driver Tries To Run Over Beverly Hills Officer, Sparking Pursuit; One Arrested
“This is dangerous to the flying public and to people on the ground,” Gannon said.
He said drone registrations will help increase accountability, encourage more responsible operation of the devices and “enhance multiagency law-enforcement efforts to track down violators.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of drone sightings by airplane pilots doubled from last year to this year.
In the Los Angeles area, about 60 sightings were reported to the FAA during a recent nine-month period, the federal agency reports.
Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to give local law enforcement the ability to file misdemeanor charges against people who fly drones within a 5-mile radius of an airport.
The city ordinance also restricts drone interference with manned aircraft, requires that drones be flown within the operator’s line of sight and prohibits using drones at night and flying them higher than 400 feet. Drones also cannot be flown closer than 25 feet from another person, except at takeoff and landing.
Pilot sightings of drones have doubled since last year, including sightings near manned aircraft and major sporting events, and interference with wildfire-fighting operations, the government said.
“These reports signal a troubling trend,” said Federal Aviation Administration chief Michel Huerta. Registration will increase pressure on drone operators to fly responsibly, he said, adding, “When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”
The FAA now receives about 100 reports a month from pilots who say they’ve seen drones flying near planes and airports, compared with only a few sightings per month last year. So far there have been no accidents, but agency officials have said they’re concerned that a drone weighing only a few pounds might cause serious damage if it is sucked into an engine or smashes into an airliner’s windshield.
“We’ve seen unmanned aircraft interfere, not help with our lives,” added Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation. “Most recently in California, during wildfire operations. Some have come too close to airplanes and airports.”READ MORE: E.G. Daily On 'Rugrat's New Holiday Special "Traditions": 'We Embrace Everyone And Everything'
The FAA and the Transportation Department are setting up a 25- to 30-member task force including government and industry officials and hobbyists. The task force will recommend which drones should be registered and which ones should be exempted. The team will also design a system that would be easy for commercial operators to comply with, the department said.
Toys and small drones that don’t present a safety threat are likely to be exempt. Drones that weigh only a pound or two or that can’t fly higher than a few hundred feet are considered less risky. Heavier ones and those that can fly thousands of feet pose more of a problem.
As popularity has grown within the drone industry, many have become concerned about where and when the devices are being used.
Just last week, a Southwest Airlines pilot reported seeing a drone at 4,000 feet.
Authorities were notified of the device while the airplane was making its final descent into the Los Angeles International Airport.
Currently, there are strict drone regulations in place near airports. However, authorities reported 650 sightings have been reported this year alone.
Meanwhile, drone enthusiasts have pointed out that the devices offer many positive uses such as assisting ranches track cattle and helping Amazon make deliveries.
Douglas Hajj of Drones Plus in Studio City told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO most people in the drone industry support registration, especially because customers are often willing to spend a lot of cash on a technology they may not be very familiar with.
“You want to make the sale, you want to get somebody an awesome product so they can be a part of this awesome technology that’s happening in the future,” said Hajj. “And at the same time, you hope that this person’s gonna be responsible and that no one gets hurt in its operation.”
Hajj and other drone vendors say they hope registration would be the responsibility of the buyer and not the seller, especially not in the way gun sellers must register their sales.
Authorities hope to have regulations in place by the holidays this year.MORE NEWS: Angels Reportedly Re-Sign Closer Raisel Iglesias To Four-Year Deal
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