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 Schumer Will Introduce Amendment To This Month's Must-Pass Extension of FAA Reauthorization, Requiring Manufacturers to Implement Geo-Fencing Technology Solutions That Prevent Drones From Flying Where They Shouldn’t 

Legislation Includes Provisions That Would Allow Authorities To Confiscate Rogue Drones, Toughen Penalties On Violators—Like Fines; Prohibit Law Breakers From Utilizing Drones Ever Again; Require FAA To Educate Public About Usage & Rules; Give FAA Authority To Advance Further Requirements As Needed   

  Schumer: Recent West Indian Day Parade Drones, U.S. Open Crash & Near-Misses Involving Commercial Planes Demand New Technology ASAP 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced today that he will unveil an amendment this week that would require manufacturers to implement geo-fencing technology or other similar solutions on all drones in order to prevent them from flying in to “No Fly Drone Zones,” like airports, the Pentagon, major parades, large sporting events—such as the U.S. Open---and more. Geo-fencing or other similar technology, which Schumer has long-advocated for, limits where unauthorized drones can fly through the installation of built-in software, firmware and GPS tracking in the device. The technology helps take human error out of the equation. Manufacturers are already experimenting with placing this type of technology in their drones, however, Schumer said that all manufacturers should be required to take all reasonable steps to implement the software right away and that’s why he will be proposing this amendment in the upcoming FAA Reauthorization bill. Schumer said, according to reports, there have been several reported drone sightings by pilots this summer alone that involved both JFK and Newark airports;  the drones were at an altitude of 2,000-3,000 feet. In addition, the FAA recently reported pilot sightings of unmanned aircrafts have increased over the past year from a total of 238 in 2014 to more than 650 by August 9th 2015. Schumer said that these drone sightings are extremely troubling because a collision could put hundreds of airplane passengers and pilots in real danger.

In addition, just last week, unauthorized drones were reported over the West Indian Day Parade and earlier this month a drone crashed into the stands of Louis Armstrong Stadium during a U.S. Open match. According to reports, no one was hurt, however, the operator was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment, reckless operation of a drone and operating a drone in a New York City public park.

In February, the FAA released its draft rule on drones, however, Schumer said that it does not go far enough because it does not require the use of geo-fencing technology to virtually eliminate the chance of a drone causing a disaster and limiting where it can fly. Schumer said he would propose his amendment as part of the soon-to-pass Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization that must move through Congress this fall. Schumer explained that he had hoped a geo-fencing requirement would be included in the reauthorization bill but with recent reports that Congress will simply extend current FAA policy through at least 2016, an amendment to that extension could be the only way to implement such a requirement this year.  If language like Schumer is proposing is not included in the upcoming bill, legislative action on geo-technology could be stalled until at least 2016.  Schumer said that this issue is far too important to wait and Congress should act now regardless of whether or not they do a full FAA reauthorization or just an extension of current policy.

The Schumer Drone Amendment includes some of these major provisions:

·         Require that all drones sold or operated in the United States have a means of preventing unauthorized operations within an unsafe distance from an airport or protected airspace through geo-fencing technology or other similar technological means.

·         Require that all drones sold or operated in the United States have a means of limiting altitude, through geo-fencing or other similar technological means.

·         Require that all drone manufactures make a concerted effort to make the altitude and airspace limiting (geo-fencing) technology tamper proof so that the system cannot be easily overridden.

·         Include punitive measures on top of existing federal law, (this would include fines and drone confiscation, increased penalties for repeat violations) for anyone who knowingly flies too high, too close to an airport or other restricted airspace, or who attempts to tamper with or override the altitude or airspace limiting technology or the identification number.

·         Prohibit anyone who has knowingly flown too high, too close to an airport or other restricted airspace, or who has attempted to tamper with or override the altitude or airspace limiting technology or the identification number from ever being able to utilize a drone again. 

·         Require the FAA in consultation with other appropriate agencies to begin public education campaigns aimed at promoting safe drone usage.

·         Give the FAA additional authority to institute other drone regulations and requirements as needed to promote and protect public safety.

“There needs to be a clear strategy to address the public safety dilemma of reckless drone use because a future drone crash could spell real trouble. That’s why I am unveiling brand new federal language in Congress that would virtually eliminate any chance of drones crashing into planes and causing serious danger,” said Senator Schumer. “My amendment, which I am attaching to the FAA Reauthorization bill, would require geo-fencing or other similar technology software on every drone that would prohibit flying near airports and other sensitive areas. All we need to do is pass this legislation and we can allow drones but in a safer, more effective way.”

Schumer continued, “Requiring geo-fencing technology will effectively fence off drones from sensitive areas like airports, the Pentagon and major sporting events like the US Open and more. If geo-fencing technology were mandated in every drone sold in America, it would go a long way toward preventing the kinds of near-misses that have occurred over the past few months, and still allow hobbyists to fly drones in safe places.”

Schumer explained that originally Congress had planned to pass a full FAA reauthorization this fall that would have created the opportunity to address a number of pressing safety issues including the use of drone technology. However, recently Republican leadership has indicated that rather than pass a full reauthorization, they will instead pursue a short-term extension of FAA policy, likely into 2016. Schumer said that requiring geo-fencing or other similar technology is simply too important to wait until 2016, and so he will be proposing an amendment to the planned short-term FAA extension that must pass this fall in order to ensure this important issue is addressed right away. 

Drones are unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that fall under three categories denoted by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA): civil, public and model aircraft. The public unmanned aircraft systems are used by government agencies, law enforcement agencies and research institutions to aid in their operations.  Schumer said that drones are an incredibly important technology, and are helpful in collecting data, aiding with border patrol operations, agriculture, training the military and more. The civil unmanned aircraft systems and the model aircraft systems provide opportunities for civilians to use drones recreationally, and for drones to be used for research and development. Schumer supports the use of drones under all of these categories, but said that there must be clear limits to their usage when privacy and safety are threatened. Schumer noted that drones have commercial applications that make them useful in terms of agricultural development, real estate sales and search and rescue missions. Specifically, drones can help farmers monitor their crops more effectively and may help realtors sell real estate by providing better photographs of for-sale properties. Drones can also aid in search and rescue missions by locating missing individuals. Schumer said that there are innumerable benefits to drone technology, however, there are also consequences to the lack of regulation.  The FAA is charged with developing general, binding rules for integrating drones into the national airspace. In light of a number of near-misses at New York City airports as well as numerous privacy concerns over the years, Schumer has long been an advocate for clearer guidelines on drone use. Since the FAA Modernization and Reform Act was passed in 2012 and established “a special rule for model aircraft,” Schumer has urged the FAA to release its proposed rule, which would distinguish between hobby and commercial drones, and outline the legal and illegal uses of commercial drones. On February 15th, the FAA released its draft rule on drones; Schumer said this was a good first step towards airspace safety, however, the final rules should include three key changes: fix the flawed ‘line of sight’ rule, require manufacturers to use GPS geo-fencing technology and develop stringent privacy protections.

As of July 31st, there have been several reported near-misses involving drones and airplanes in the New York metro area. Three of these events occurred at John F. Kennedy Airport, four of these events occurred at Newark airport and all involved passenger jets carrying hundreds of people. On July 31st alone there were two incidents in which a drone came within a few hundred feet of an approaching plane. The first incident was at 2:25pm and involved JetBlue Flight 1834, which was carrying 150 passengers at the time; the crew witnessed a drone pass directly beneath the plane as it approached the runway. The second incident occurred later that day at approximately5pm when Delta flight 407, which was carrying 149 passengers, also witnessed a drone pass beneath it. The most recent incident occurred on August 2nd at 6pm when Shuttle America flight 5911, which was carrying 50 passengers, reported seeing a quadcopter drone fly within 25 front of its nose immediately before landing on the runway. On Sunday August 9th, four commercial airplanes reported seeing a drone flying near the approach path of a runway at Newark airport; each plane was landing and at altitudes of 2,000-3,000 feet. Schumer said that the damage of a drone colliding with an airplane could cause damage similar to that of a bird strike, which has the possibility in bringing a plane down. This is not the only instance of improper drone usage around the country.

The FAA has said that pilot reports of drone sightings have increased over the past year. According to the FAA, pilots reported spotting 16 drones in June of 2014 and 36 drones in July 2014. So far this year, 138 pilots reported seeing drones in June and 137 pilots reported seeing drones in July.