WASHINGTON – A California Senator says she is introducing legislation to continue a federal ban on drones.
The drones, sometimes called unmanned aerial systems, have been involved in several dozen near-collisions with commercial aircraft this year and have gotten the attention of lawmakers.
Saying she is “alarmed”, Senator Dianne Feinstein says it is her intent to introduce legislation to codify and expand the moratorium on private drone use in an effort to curb this “serious potential safety problem” and “serious threat to life”. She noted nearly 190 safety incidents already this year.
Feinstein urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enforce laws already on the books, and then warned the agency that she will be pushing for stricter laws that would include “substantial criminal penalties” if a drone user puts others at risk.
The FAA says unmanned aircraft are flying in the National Airspace System (NAS) under very controlled conditions, performing border and port surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security, helping with scientific research and environmental monitoring by NASA and NOAA, supporting public safety by law enforcement agencies, helping state universities conduct research, and supporting various other missions for public (government) entities. Operations range from ground level to above 50,000 feet, depending on the specific type of aircraft. However, drone operations are currently not authorized in Class B airspace, which exists over major urban areas and contains the highest density of manned aircraft in the National Airspace System.
Recreational use of airspace by model aircraft is covered by law, which generally limits operations for hobby and recreation to below 400 feet, away from airports and air traffic, and within sight of the operator.