Responding to concerns from law enforcement and security agencies about the potential for concealed explosives, the US government is ordering all civilian drones to add external markings so the owner can be more easily identified.
The regulation, which was posted Tuesday on a preview website for the Federal Register and takes effect February 23, is part of an effort to bring more oversight to the rapidly growing hobby and commercial drone industry. With more than 1 million registered drone users and those numbers expanding rapidly, the Federal Aviation Administration is trying to accommodate calls for expanded uses while also preserving safety and security.
On January 14, the FAA announced a proposed framework for allowing expanded flights over crowds and populated areas. It's also working on regulations that would mandate that drones broadcast a radio beacon identifying their owners and location, a condition insisted on by security agencies.
The regulation would require drone owners to place their registration number on the outside of their devices. When the FAA first required drone owners to register their aircraft in 2015, it said the number could be placed within the battery compartment.
The FAA took the action because agencies such as the FBI and the Homeland Security Department raised concerns "regarding the risk a concealed explosive device poses to first responders who must open a compartment to find the small unmanned aircraft's registration number," the agency said in the rule.
Drone safety and security have been exacerbated by incidents like a disruption to flights into Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, on January 22 after pilots on two flights spotted a suspected drone on their final approach path to the runway.
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