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U.S. Senator Seeks Federal Drone Regulation, Eyes Two Techs to Control Drones Flying into Commercial Airspace

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is meeting with aviation leaders who say drones need to be federally regulated to ensure they don't get too close to airplanes landing or taking off from airports around the country.

by Caitlin Dineen, Orlando Sentinel / February 8, 2016

(TNS) — Florida's aviation leaders say drones need to be federally regulated to ensure they don't get too close to airplanes landing or taking off from airports around the country.

"We have a situation here where technology is out front of regulation," said Steve Grossman, chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. "And I think we need to think that through."

Grossman was one of seven Florida airport leaders to meet with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Friday to discuss ways to better regulate drones, an small flying technology used by hobbyists for photography and corporations for surveying purposes.

Others include Parker McClellan with NW Florida Beaches International Airport; Tom Jewsbury with St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport; Joe Lopano from Tampa International Airport; Emilio Gonzalez from Miami International Airport; Rick Piccolo from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport; and Phil Brown, executive director of Orlando International Airport.

Nelson, who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, has ideas involving two types of technology to better control drones that pose a threat to commercial airspace.

The first is a software to install in future drones, something to block them from flying over no-fly zones.

The second, and more likely of the duo, is an electric fence that would link to the frequency of a drone if it gets too close to an airfield, he said.

"This is an accident waiting to happen," said Nelson. "And none of us want that to happen."

As described by Nelson, the fence technology would allow an airport, or another agency, to gain control of a drone if it gets too close to the airspace. This would allow that agency to navigate the drone away from the airport and gather information about its owner.

Nelson said he hopes to put any federal regulations in any upcoming bills that would reauthorize the FAA, which was recently reauthorized for six months in September.

Gonzalez said pilots recently reporting spotting a drone flying nearby as they were coming in for a landing at Miami International. Brown and Piccolo described similar incidents at their airports, respectively.

Miami-Dade County leaders then crafted and approved a local ordinance on Jan. 20 to definitively ban drones from flying nearby.

Violators caught will be arrested and fined, he said.

While airport leaders said local ordinances are helpful, a federal authority is better.

"We really need a federal standard," said Piccolo. "And a federal way to enforce this."

©2016 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

 

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