Armed Conflict Cybersecurity & Tech

Drone Registration, Part III

Herb Lin
Tuesday, November 24, 2015, 12:56 PM

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee has issued its final report dated November 21, 2015.

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The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee has issued its final report dated November 21, 2015.

The report notes that under 49 U.S.C. § 44101(a), “a person may only operate an aircraft when it is registered with the FAA.” The report goes on to say that “As such, the majority of the Task Force believes the FAA cannot require registration of sUAS at the point-of-sale. Some members of the Task Force expressed the opinion that maximum compliance can best be achieved with point-of-sale registration and those members therefore encourage the FAA to include it as one of several options for registration. Several other members of the Task Force pointed out that, because the FAA’s authority extends only to operation of aircraft, point-of-sale registration cannot be mandated.”

In previous postings here and here, I called for a registration system that would make drone operation conditional on registration – the act of registration would technically enable drone flight. Such registration could be done at the point of sale, but it could also be done at any point prior to drone operation.

Unless I’m missing something important, it does not seem that a technically enforced requirement that a drone be registered would violate the intent of 49 U.S.C. § 44101(a). Point-of-sale registration would be merely one additional option that vendors could offer for the convenience of the buyer.

Dr. Herb Lin is senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Hank J. Holland Fellow in Cyber Policy and Security at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University. His research interests relate broadly to policy-related dimensions of cybersecurity and cyberspace, and he is particularly interested in and knowledgeable about the use of offensive operations in cyberspace, especially as instruments of national policy. In addition to his positions at Stanford University, he is Chief Scientist, Emeritus for the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies, where he served from 1990 through 2014 as study director of major projects on public policy and information technology, and Adjunct Senior Research Scholar and Senior Fellow in Cybersecurity (not in residence) at the Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies in the School for International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Prior to his NRC service, he was a professional staff member and staff scientist for the House Armed Services Committee (1986-1990), where his portfolio included defense policy and arms control issues. He received his doctorate in physics from MIT.

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