The United Nations’ aviation agency is backing proposals to create a single global drone registry. The controversial (at least among pilots) move is one step towards developing common international rules for tracking and flying UAVs.
The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization does not have the power to impose its suggestions on member states. But its proposals are being considered during a Montreal symposium later this month. ICAO will host the symposium from Sept 22-23, with issues up for discussion including registration, tracking drones and geofencing systems.
According to Stephen Creamer, director of ICAO’s air navigation bureau, a global drone registry would make data accessible to national authorities in real time.
Read more: FAA Is Now Issuing A Drone Registration Refund
The single registry would, in theory, remove the need for multiple databases, allowing local law enforcement to remotely identify and track unmanned aircraft, the operator and owner.
“You’ve got to have some commonality so that you’re not carrying five receivers in your police car,” Creamer said in an interview on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Global Drone Registry: Sensible Move or an Unnecessary Overreaction?
Many drone pilots disagree over the need for drone registration. Some admit that it fosters a spirit of accountability and helps to prevent reckless flying. Others say that once a drone has been purchased, what they do with it is nobody’s business but theirs.
Whichever side of the argument you stand, the truth is that anti-drone stories make for great headlines. As a result, the public perception is that they pose a threat: to commercial airliners, people and their privacy. As long as these stories keep surfacing thanks to a minority of irresponsible pilots, political demand is going to remain for more regulations and more flight restrictions.
With that in mind, national registration appears to be a fair middle ground. Governments get to look like they are being proactive and pilots fly with more accountability. Everybody wins. Even if the FAA registration was successfully challenged in court earlier this year.
However, taking a drone pilot registry to a global level seems to be an exaggerated response to the challenges at hand. Although the safety of passenger jets and people is cited as evidence that a global drone registry is needed, there has not yet been a fatal collision between a drone and a manned aircraft or a person. The hype far outweighs the reality of the danger.
Would commercial pilots and manufacturers benefit from a more integrated system?
A Global Drone Registry Could Be Good News For Manufacturers
But on the other hand, drone usage is soaring in the States, Europe and China. There are now a huge number of consumer drones available to buy. The use of drones around the world and the threat of different standards and regulations in different countries is a headache on the horizon for manufacturers like DJI and Parrot.
“They (drone makers) are worried that Europe might create one set of standards, the United States might do a second and China might do a third. And they’ve got to build a drone differently in these different environments,” Creamer said.
A global registry would be a step towards creating uniform standards across the board, which would be good news to manufacturers that sell drones around the world and pilots who fly and want to take advantage of opportunities abroad. Many pilots will be aware of how complex it is to travel with your drone. This could be a step toward simplifying that problem.
Speaking to Reuters, Parimal Kopardekar, a principal investigator for Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, said he supported the global drone industry moving forwards with common operating standards.
“I think it’s smart that ICAO
is trying to harmonize it,” he said. “If you have a drone that you build in one country you should be able to use it in another country and vice versa.”