The proliferation of small, relatively inexpensive unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) presents the Federal Aviation Administration with a challenge in identifying people who don't follow the rules of the air or who endanger the nation's airspace. So, the agency is asking law enforcement for help.
Even though the FAA is still dragging their feet to publish official regulations concerning the integration of drones into the national airspace system, they seem content approving commercial use on a case by case basis as they see fit, including a partnership with CNN to test drone use for news gathering. Now they have deputized local authorities to investigate unauthorized use of small, inexpensive UAS even though the police don't have the authority to enforce airspace regulations.
The FAA released a 12-page guide to the law enforcement community explaining the legal framework for the agency's oversight of aviation safety in the U.S., including UAS operations. The guidance describes how UAS and model aircraft can be operated legally, and the options for legal enforcement actions against unauthorized or unsafe UAS operators. The document also discusses the law enforcement community's vital role in deterring, detecting and investigating unsafe operations.
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The agency is particularly interested in local authorities' help in contacting operators, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and how and when to notify the FAA of any possible violations. The document containing guidance is somewhat contradicting as it starts by stating that local law enforcement are in the best position to pursue enforcement, then acknowledges their (FAA's) sole responsibility for enforcing violations, all while warning not to mix criminal law enforcement with administrative safety enforcement under the guise of providing public safety. Meanwhile, they've yet to produce regulations for the operations of drones.
So be warned, "The FAA may take enforcement action against anyone who conducts an unauthorized UAS operation or operates a UAS in a way that endangers the safety of the national airspace system." You can get more information about UAS from the FAA here, including the Do's and Don'ts of flying remote controlled aircraft.
Photo Credit: AP
Chris is a pilot who loves airplanes and cars and his writing has been seen on Jalopnik. Contact him with questions or comments via twitter or email.