INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 14, 2016 – Post Christmas holiday, “drones” over (approximately) half-a-pound and under 55 pounds (above 55 lb. carries a different set of regulation) will need to carry FAA registrations, or the owners will face fines of $27,500 or criminal penalties up to a quarter million dollars and three years in prison.
It’s the law.
The registration starts Dec. 21 and covers all such machines, no matter how long you’ve owned them. There will also be a $5 fee.
With perhaps a million new drones sitting under Christmas trees and another million or more already in citizens’ hands, the millions of dollars in registration fees will no doubt be welcomed by the FAA, chronically underfunded and always under pressure to upgrade its equipment and systems.
Did you know that the FAA is the world’s largest customer for vacuum tubes? It may be the only customer for vacuum tubes.
Anyway, the real windfall will begin after the grace period ends this spring, when kids get rounded up and thrown in jail for flying the drones they’ve owned for months or even years.
The law keeps anyone under the age of 17 from applying, so a kid could be driving a car before he could own a drone. The FAA wanted 18, because some drones can be operated commercially and they figure such drones are pretty much the same as airliners.
In the end it relented, and 17-year-olds can own a 10-ounce drone.
Operators would be “required to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center”? Or that “operators must be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration?” They have to obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, it never expires).
Operators “must also pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.” And if the FAA wants to see your drone, you must “make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.”
“Documents?” you say. Didn’t hear about those, did you?
There is a sane-sounding requirement to “Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.” That sounds sane, until you realize what’s covered by “any.” Did you break a propeller? Nick one? Scratch the paint? Did you report it within 10 days?
Is this of any use to the FAA, or is it just a colossal waste of professionals’ time and your money?
Just as with an airplane, an operator must “Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.” Considering that drone flights are often measured in seconds, and rarely in timespans greater than 20 minutes, that’s a lot of inspecting and documenting and opportunity for getting fined.
Owning a toy drone now entails more recurrent training, more record-keeping, more testing and more paperwork than owning the family car. It makes one wonder how the FAA, already stretched on manpower, will be able to do its job of keeping the air safe for the real pilots and passengers up there and for the people sleeping in their homes near big commercial airports down here.
But this isn’t why this action is important. It’s important because it sets the stage for a much more despicable plan: the registration and taxation all sorts of things.
This is a beautiful precedent for an already oppressive government, another way to assail freedom, disguised, as always, as a “public safety” or “common sense” regulation. It is a test run for all sorts of things, but most obviously it’s a template for government to get around that pesky Constitution.
There are plenty of people, in and out of government, who see the next step.
No matter how much trouble this kind of bureaucratic program creates, it will be as nothing when it’s applied more broadly. And no one can read the FAA’s apologia for this who couldn’t easily substitute the word “firearms” into the text.
True, we are not guaranteed a right to fly drones. Let’s see how things work out when the government that regularly ignores the Constitution gets public acquiescence to this program.
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