Articles

N.Y. Senator Pushes Consumer Drone Safety Act

New York Senator Chuck Schumer advocated for geo-fencing, a virtual perimeter that would locate drones with embedded GPS tracking devices.

by Joe LoTemplio, Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y. / October 16, 2015
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, D - N.Y. a katz / Shutterstock.com

(TNS) --  Alarmed by recent episodes of people flying drones over sensitive sites, including Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer is urging his colleagues in Congress to support legislation to address the problem.

Schumer's proposed law would require manufacturers to implement geo-fencing technology or similar solutions on all drones, according to a news release from his office.

Geo-fencing would limit where unauthorized drones can fly through the installation of built-in software, firmware and GPS tracking imbedded into the device.

"There needs to be a clear strategy to address the dangers of reckless drone usage," he said in a press release.

"If a drone crashed into a plane by finding its way onto an airport runway or was able do harm by flying near highly populated areas and buildings, like the New York State Capitol and the Albany FBI Headquarters, we could see immeasurable damage done," Schumer said.

"That’s why I am urging my colleagues in Congress to include this geo-fencing legislation into the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill this fall.

"By putting strong safeguards in place, we can eliminate near misses and rogue drones from our skies while still allowing hobbyists to fly drones for recreation in safe places."

DRONE STRUCK NY CAPITOL

The Consumer Drone Safety Act would also require other important drone safety measures and would improve the ability of law enforcement to take action against reckless users and improve safety by ensuring drones are detectable and identifiable to pilots and air traffic controllers, the release said.

As one of many examples of why geo-fencing technology and other safety features are needed for drones, Schumer cited a recent incident in Albany where a man crashed a drone into one of the State Capitol’s chimneys.

There were also incidents in which drones were spotted flying dangerously close to Clinton Correctional Facility and the Albany FBI Headquarters.

Correction officers confronted a man who was flying a drone over the walls of the Dannemora prison this past summer, an incident that was highlighted on social-media video.

GPS TRACKING

Schumer said that while drones can provide recreational enjoyment, there is a lack of safeguards to help ensure the unmanned aircraft do not endanger the general public.

New technology would take human error out of the equation, he said.

Manufacturers are already experimenting with placing geo-fencing into their drones; however, Schumer said they should be required to take all reasonable steps to implement the software right away.

DETECTABLE BY PILOTS

In addition to keeping drones away from areas where large numbers of people could be hurt or law-enforcement efforts thwarted, Schumer's legislation would require that drones be detectable and identifiable to air-traffic controllers and pilots.

This is meant to prevent a collision between a plane and a drone, a situation that could lead to deadly consequences, the release said. And it would also help police locate reckless drone operators.

Schumer said there have been incidents of drones coming too close to runways, important events and buildings around the country.

The FAA recently reported that pilot sightings of unmanned aircrafts have increased over the past year from a total of 238 in 2014 to more than 650 by Aug. 9, 2015.

Just a few weeks ago, unauthorized drones were reported over the West Indian Day Parade in Manhattan and, in September, a drone crashed into the stands of Louis Armstrong Stadium in Queens during a U.S. Open match.

In February of this year, the FAA released its draft rule on drone safety.

However, Schumer said that it does not go far enough because it does not require the use of geo-fencing technology and other safety measures.

©2015 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.