Mandating Drone Registration

H.4421 would require an individual register any “unmanned aerial vehicle, an unpiloted aerial vehicle, or a remotely piloted aerial vehicle” (aka drone), with the aeronautics commission prior to operating such vehicle. Failure to register the vehicle before operation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500, or imprisonment up to 30 days. The bill would also make it a misdemeanor, with the same penalties as operating an unregistered drone, to fly a drone in an “unlawful airspace”.

There are several problems with this policy which is already being considered on the national level. First, what exact product is to be registered? Private drone use is a field which is largely populated by hobbyists building their own drones from parts? Do all parts and kits have to be registered or just fully constructed vehicles? Second, how is ownership of a drone to be determined in order to enforce compliance? Even if a drone has an identifying number before it crashes (the most likely way a drone would come into possession of authorities) the identifying marker may be destroyed during the crash. Third, just like with gun control laws, drone registration laws are only likely to be obeyed by those who don’t intend to use their property for illegal purposes. Fourth and finally, drone registration could become a way to enforce other laws that violate civil liberties such as prohibitions on recording law enforcement or other authorities.

(Related H.4425 would make it illegal to operate a drone armed with a weapon)

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