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December 21 2015

Should You Wrap Christmas Drones in Red Tape?

Patrice J. Lee

Christmas is this week and if drones are on your wish list, be prepared for new Washington red tape to track your toy.

In this instance, regulations actually may be needed to prevent drones from flying over the gates at the White House or crashing into a plane that is taking off or landing at an airport.

These federal regulators, however, are broad and sweeping  requiring that nearly every owner for a drone registers the device with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

This registration of “unmanned aerial systems” begins today with a $5 registration fee to Uncle Sam. In light of the holiday season, that fee will be refunded through January 20 (30 days after the law goes into effect.) Violators face fines and even jail time for non-compliance.

More than 500,000 drones are expected to be given as gifts this year, and the registration applies to those that weigh between .55 and 55 pounds. In theory, this should exempt small toy drones, but how many toys weigh less than half a pound?

Once registered, the hobbyist will be required to carry a government-issued certificate at all times. And only those 13 or older can legally own a drone.

This regulation is also inadvertently catching other aerial devices such as radio-controlled planes and helicopters. Hobbyists, who before now have enjoyed the freedom to fly, aren’t too happy:

"It baffles me as to why they would want to hit a hobby group,” said Ed Yeash of Summerville, president of the Charleston RC Society.

“We deserve a better break than what the FAA has given us because we are responsible modelers,” Yeash said. “Responsible people will fly where they are supposed to fly.”

Charleston RC Society is a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics representing more than 180,000 amateur radio-controlled flight enthusiasts nationwide. The academy and the local club are urging members to postpone registering their model aircraft with the government while the hobbyists challenge the new FAA requirement. The organization is pursuing “all legal and political remedies” to FAA regulations it describes as “burdensome and unnecessary.”

Redundant may be a good way to describe some of these rules. The Academy of Model Aeronautics already has a pilot and aircraft registration system for its members.

Experts think this a dog-and-pony show that would do anything as reports:

Some aviation experts doubt the new rule will help increase safety for unmanned aircraft. unmanned aircraft.

"In my opinion, the bottom line of registering these drones is almost useless," said aviation consultant Denny Kelly...

These regulations are so sweeping that they will be difficult to enforce, with many owners likely to ignore rules that may appear petty.  Thanks Uncle Sam for yet another wrapping a lot of this year's Christmas your favorite packaging--red tape.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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