Why drone registration solves nothing

December 22, 2015 11:50 | By | 2 Comments

“Drone registration”, as the FAA calls it, makes a lot of sense. That is, until you start thinking about it beyond the usual talking points. Here’s why it actually does not solve any problems whatsoever.

The talking points sound really convincing at first glance: Registration enables the authorities to track down irresponsible operators if there’s an accident, it gives them an idea how many owners there are in a given area, it helps educate owners about the regulations, and it makes our skies safer for everyone.

Unfortunately none of that is true, and here is why.

  1. Bad guys don’t register their gear.
    At the end of the day, if someone wants to do something silly, they can just not register their multicopter and fly recklessly. They get the benefit of being able to vanish without a trace. Tracking someone via the purchase trail of their recovered model is impossible if they’re using individual components instead of buying RTF models. Registration doesn’t solve this.
  2. Even registered owners may remove their ID if they’re planning something stupid.
    Think about it: If someone is registered, but they plan to do something illegal, they can remove the ID number from the model at any point before flight. So really, the only time you will get an ID from a copter is when someone’s accidentally breaking the rules, not when they are intentionally breaking them. Registration does not help here either.
  3. Registration IDs are easy to forge.
    It’s just a number. Evil operators may easily snap a picture of your ID number at the flying field or at a model air show, and then put that number on their own models. Registration actually creates a new problem here.
  4. Forged IDs cause a reversal of the burden of proof.
    Someone flew a multicopter in a city and the police recovered it with YOUR ID on it. But it’s not your multicopter. How do you prove that you did not own that model to begin with? The police have their proof, it’s your ID. Now suddenly you’re in a position where you have to provide proof for your innocence.
  5. Even real IDs cause a reversal of the burden of proof.
    Someone steals your multicopter and does something stupid with it – it’s your copter, your ID, but you didn’t fly it. Have fun explaining – and proving – that to the authorities.
  6. Why does the FAA need to know that you own a multicopter again?
    Ok so they build a database of all RC models in the United States (and soon, Europe) – why? What do they gain from that knowledge? There is no tangible gain in safety, and did they ever justify how a potential gain justifies this? Turns out, no they did not.
  7. Why does registration cost money again?
    I get that they want to tie it to your person via your credit card – but why five dollars? Why not one dollar, or ten cents? Or why not use a different means of proof of identity? If the goal is to register pilots, you’d want the maximum amount of compliance. The reason is return of investment in the registration system, of course. At least registration is currently per-pilot, but it is not certain that Europe will be as smart about that aspect yet…
  8. Why does registration expire again?
    So you registered and paid five bucks… why do you have to register again in a few years? Because chances are the terms of registration will be even more restrictive next time around. Perhaps you’ll be required to register each model, with a maximum of 10 models, then later just 5, or 2…

Registration doesn’t make us safer.
It does the opposite: Legal, law-abiding RC modelers are now forced to pay regularly for a registration which only serves to be able to hurt them with excessive fines in case of an accident. And bad guys who want to use RC models for nefarious purposes are already ready to break the law, so why should they register?
If bad guys can just not register their models, if the ID is easy to fake, if registration only catches those who violate rules by accident or not on their own fault, if it doesn’t prevent anyone from doing something bad in the first place, and if it isn’t even certain the authorities fine the right person based on that easy to fake ID number… why are we doing this again?

Because it sounds good, provided you don’t think about it too much.


Tags: , , , ,

Category: Featured, News

About the Author ()

FPVCentral is a private, independent news and review site for all things related to First Person View RC model flight. Covering everything from hobby, commercial and military drones, RC models and electronics related to FPV flight, we are not sponsored by any manufacturer or affiliated with any company or project.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Richard Shagam says:

    Drone registration solves nothing if a drone pilot chooses to break the rules and fly irresponsibly. However, the FAA appears to be trying to give people the opportunity to get educated about safe and responsible flying, much like how one needs a driver’s license in order to drive a car. Getting a driver’s license means at some point you demonstrated to an official that you learned how to drive. Renewing it means that you continue agree to drive responsibly according to the laws of the land. On the other hand, it won’t stop an unlicensed driver from getting in a car and driving safely or recklessly, but if caught, there will be consequences. True, an unlicensed drone pilot has less likelihood that he will get caught, but at least more pilots will have the opportunity to learn about safety through the registration process. Oh, and in any registration program, there are costs in administering the program–is $5 really a big deal when the a/c costs several hundred? And for the record, I, as an AMA member, am taking the AMAs advice and holding off registering until the AMA can either get the FAA to accept AMA membership as registration, or not.

    • fpvcentral says:

      It would be preferable if the AMA was responsible for managing registrations, not the FAA. Registration should not expire and they should also ensured to not be limited to a limited number of models.

      Registration should be used to ensure sufficient capabilities and knowledge of the model pilot, thus putting a number on the model doesn’t help there. Nor does paying 5 dollars. If it’s know-how that is to be ensured, then HAM radio is perhaps a better model for how it could be done.

Leave a Reply