US government to introduce drone registry

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US government to introduce drone registry

Aims to contain risks as flight numbers soar.

The US government has confirmed plans to bring in regulation for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), forcing their owners to register their drones. 

More than 650 sightings of unauthorised drone flights have been recorded by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) this year, almost triple the number reported in 2014. 

With more than a million drones expected to be bought by consumers before Christmas this year, the FAA fears the number of unauthorised flights will pose a risk to aviation.

US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx announced a taskforce would develop a new federal register to keep track of drone owners. 

Foxx said the task force was expected to present a proposal for the registry by November 20 this year, with regulations kicking in early 2016. 

He said the new registry would not mean UAV owners have to be licensed to operate their drones. 

Registration of UAVs will be necessary for both commercial and recreational operators. Civil and criminal penalties will apply at state level for owners of unregistered drones, FAA officials said.  

Foxx said the registry will help the FAA track down operators of "rogue drones", something that has, until now, proved difficult. 

The new rules would not slow down development of the technology, he said, which is currently booming, with online retailers looking at using drones for consignment deliveries. 

The FAA was originally barred from regulating recreational drone flights and their operators by the US Congress in 2012. 

However, the sharp rise in the number of UAVs in recent years has prompted the government to take urgent action to limit potential safety and security risks. 

The agency has also introduced a "no drone zone" program for areas where drone flights are deemed risky, and a smartphone app to help guide operators assess where they're allowed to fly. 

Drone flights and operation in Australia are regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Commercial drone operators in Australia must apply for a certificate from CASA, which the agency said in September could take up six months due to a large increase in use resulting in a backlog of applications. Recreational drone users can fly their craft without a licence. 

In June this year, CASA said it intended to relax drone flight regulations for commercial operators, removing the need to apply for a licence under some conditions. 

The relaxed rules would apply for drones that weigh less than two kilograms and are flown well outside controlled airspace and restricted areas. 

Operators will also need to maintain a direct line of sight with the craft, fly during daylight hours only, stay away from populated areas, keep a distance of 30 metres away from people, and not exceed 400 feet height above the ground.

CASA expects its new rules to be implemented next year. 

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