Alphabet Wing Faashepardsonreuters: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just released a new set of regulations that will require small commercial drones to have radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags attached. The tags will be used to install an automatic identification system that allows for the tracking of individual drones and its whereabouts. This practice is expected to erode privacy in the process.
According to the FAA, the new regulations were based on recommendations from a task force set up by the agency to study regulations for commercial drones. The recommendations were made during a public meeting that was held on May 13 and May 14 this year in Arlington, Virginia.
The regulations aim to create a control system that will help ensure safety on airspace and prevent collisions between manned and unmanned aircrafts.
As per the latest rules, all commercial drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must be registered, have serial numbers and operators must have a remote pilot certificate.
Drones that weigh more than 55 pounds but don’t fit the criteria are considered “aircrafts.” The FAA is expected to release new laws soon that will set regulations on how they can operate.
It is important to highlight that hobbyists do not need to register their drones. However, they should operate them in accordance to FAA guidelines and follow hobbyist safety rules.
The Federal Register said that operators must be at least 17 years old, possess a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center and abide by other requirements set by the FAA.
Violators may face civil penalties of up to $27,500 or criminal penalties that may reach fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.
The logging and tracking of radio-frequency tags will start on December 21, 2015. All drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds but less than 55 pounds must be registered before January 21, 2016.
The regulations also require drone operators to install anti-collision systems and sense-and-avoid features in their unmanned aircrafts. The rules also state that a drone operator must maintain visual contact with his craft at all times during flight.
The new rules have sparked outrage from privacy advocates who feel it will erode privacy rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called the implementation of flight logging and tracking a “serious blow to the rights of citizens.”
The digital rights group said that the new rules would allow authorities to easily track down drone operators. In addition, drone operators may face surveillance threats as law enforcement agencies will be able to monitor them in real time.
“Requiring unmanned drones to carry ID tags and monitor their operators in real time is a serious blow to the rights of citizens,” said EFF Legislative Analyst, Corynne McSherry. “The Fourth Amendment demands that government not track citizens without cause or suspicion, and putting tracking devices on your drone – no matter how many safeguards are put in place to ensure privacy – violates this principle.”
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) also expressed concerns over the new rules. The group said that the implementation of flight logging and tracking could risk privacy and undermine constitutional rights.
“In addition to the privacy concerns, deployment of such a system will likely be very expensive,” EPIC policy analyst Marc Rotenberg told the Register. “The government should not be willing to spend what will be millions of dollars on a new police database intended to monitor private individuals.”
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is also one of those who have expressed their concerns over the rules.