Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to require commercial drones to be equipped with collision avoidance software in an effort to prevent mid-air crashes between the devices and airplanes carrying passengers.
Feinstein said the measure, which has been dubbed the Consumer Drone Safety Act, is necessary because of the high number of near collisions that are reported by pilots to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“If we don’t act now, it’s only a matter of time before we have a tragedy on our hands,” Feinstein said in a statement about the introduction of the legislation.
“The reports of dangerous operations and near misses are only increasing,” she continued. “From incidents at LAX to La Guardia to the Golden Gate Bridge, the risk is clear. It is time to close the gaps in FAA’s authorities to protect the public safety and keep our skies safe.”
The FAA has been trying to craft rules for non-military drones to get ahead of an expected increase in their use in the coming years.
The FAA’s initial rules, unveiled in February, defined small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights below 500 feet and speeds below 100 miles per hour.
The regulations also call for drone flights to be limited to daytime hours and conducted only by U.S. residents who are older than 17.
The rules were seen as a long-sought victory for most advocates of the technology, but critics have raised concerns about potential privacy violations.
Feinstein said her measure would address concerns about drones possibly interfering with commercial flights.
“Consumer drones are a new technology,” she said. “They can fly thousands of feet in the air and jeopardize air travel, but the FAA can only regulate them if they are used for commercial purposes. That loophole must be closed.”
Feinstein’s measure would define consumer drones as “civil unmanned aircraft manufactured for commercial distribution and equipped with an automatic stabilization system or a camera for navigation,” her office said.
Source: The Hill