Do more on drones

From an editorial Tuesday in the Washington Post:

Responding to a drastic uptick in the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — also known as drones — showing up in places they do not belong, the Obama administration announced last week that it will soon start requiring recreational drone owners to register their UAVs with the federal government. That’s fine. But it is not nearly enough.

The Federal Aviation Administration has struggled to keep a handle on the proliferation of drones flown by amateurs. As the number of UAVs in circulation has surged, so has the number of potentially dangerous encounters.

Under the existing system, it is nearly impossible to track down who is violating the rules, so taking basic safety precautions is up to users, who may not even know about their responsibilities.

The FAA’s registration system might help — a bit. Registration, which owners of new and existing drones will have to submit to, will enable investigators to identify the owners of drones that crash. Owners will know what the regulations are and feel more exposed to scrutiny if they mess up.

Yet this is just the bare minimum the government should be doing, and it has taken far too long to get even here. Drones should be required to carry transponders that are difficult to deactivate so that they can be seen as they enter restricted airspace and so that investigators can easily identify owners. They should also be required to carry “geo-fencing” technology that renders drones incapable of flying where they are not supposed to go.

This should change — and quickly.