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CEO DATELINE – Commercial drone group seeks regulation for hobby drones

April 12, 2018
By Walt Williams

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A trade group representing the commercial drone industry wants Congress to strengthen regulations on hobby drone operators, pointing to an explosion in the number of hobby drones flying in U.S. skies.

The Commercial Drone Alliance is asking lawmakers to repeal Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which exempts hobby drones and model aircraft from Federal Aviation Administration regulation unless certain conditions are met. The group instead wants Congress to give FAA the ability to regulate drones and model aircraft “in a common sense way.”

“To promote innovation and the budding commercial drone industry, we need to enable the FAA to craft some commonsense rules around remote identification and more,” Alliance Co-executive Director Gretchen West said.

FAA takes a hands-off approach to hobby drone regulation but operators must still register with the agency. The Alliance noted that at the end of 2017, more than 873,000 hobby operators had registered with the FAA, which amounts to an estimated 1.1 million drones. The agency forecast that number to grow to 2.4 million drones within the next five years.

“We understand why model aircraft proponents want to remain exempt, as they have been flying safely for decades. However, times have changed, and hobbyists are no longer flying alone,” Alliance Co-executive Director Lisa Ellman said.

The Alliance represents commercial drone operators and industries that use drone technology. American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the National Association of Tower Erectors are among its members.