Drone-plane crash could hurt sector: US lawmaker

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Sun, Feb 10, 2019 - Page 5

The commercial drone industry could be torpedoed if there were a serious accident involving a drone and a commercial aircraft, US Representative Peter DeFazio said on Friday.

The chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, a Democrat, said in a speech in Washington that regulators have to take the threat seriously.

“This is really serious when these things are flying around and it could kill the commercial drone industry,” DeFazio said, adding that if a toy drone “takes down a plane” there would be public outcry to ground the devices.

The issue of threats by drones to commercial air traffic came to the fore after Gatwick Airport, London’s second-busiest, was severely disrupted in December last year when drones were sighted on three consecutive days.

Last month, 43 flights into New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport were required to hold after drone sightings at a nearby airport, while nine flights were diverted.

Last month, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (趙小蘭) proposed rules that would allow drones to operate over populated areas help speed their commercial use.

There are nearly 1.3 million registered drones in the US and more than 116,000 registered drone operators.

Officials have said that there are hundreds of thousands of additional drones that are not registered.

The US government should facilitate the growth of the drone industry, because the benefits are “potentially phenomenal,” DeFazio said.

“We’re worried about the 2 million people who bought or got toy drones for Christmas the last couple of years who are regularly flying in violation of the law,” DeFazio said.

The FBI earlier this month said that authorities confiscated six drones that violated a temporary order not to fly the devices in the area ahead of the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Alphabet Inc and Amazon.com Inc are among a growing number of companies hoping to make package delivery by drones a reality.

The US Federal Aviation Administration is also working on rules to set remote identification requirements for drones to enable tracking.