Federal grinches take aim at drones

If you’re one of the estimated 700,000 Americans to whom Santa Claus delivered a drone this Christmas, be aware that Uncle Sam also left something under the tree for you: a federal mandate.

The Federal Aviation Administration the past Monday implemented new regulations that require all drones weighing between a half-pound and 55 pounds to be registered with the government. Plus, owners must pay a $5 registration fee.

Parents will have to register on behalf of aspiring pilots under the age of 13. Failure to register or improper use of a drone could carry a civil penalty of up to $27,500, and criminal charges could cost up to $250,000 and three years in prison.

There hasn’t been that big of an overreaction since Rudolph’s shiny nose got him excluded from reindeer games.

There are legitimate concerns about drones, primarily regarding privacy: the small, quiet, unmanned craft can be fitted with cameras and surreptitiously take pictures or video while hovering over private property. Safety also is an issue. Drones can interfere with larger, fixed-wing aircraft at low altitudes near airports, and some fear they could be rigged with firearms or explosives and deployed as weapons.

For the vast majority of owners, though, drones will be toys used for purely recreational purposes, much the way hobbyists have enjoyed radio-controlled airplanes and model rockets for decades -- unlicensed, we might add, until Monday, when they too were included in the new regulations.

The FAA is so concerned about the rise of drones that it put the rules on rush delivery for Christmas. It announced the new regulations on Dec. 14, just one week before implementation — a remarkably swift time for bureaucratic action, particularly in the absence of a public safety crisis.

Rather than registering devices, the focus should be on how drones are used. A public awareness campaign using TV and Internet advertising directing drone owners to a website would be less intrusive, and likely just as effective.

The current regulations merely put a damper on fun.

Reprinted from the Northwest Florida Daily News

Distributed by Creators.com

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