FAA Needs to Enact Stricter Drone Laws

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for regulating the skies and keeping passengers who fly safe from dangerous aircrafts, flying conditions, and air traffic, amongst other things. Yet, the FAA continues to allow the unregulated use of drones regardless of the inherent risks involved. Stricter regulations are desperately needed to prevent accidents, confrontations, and harm to property.

Drones are creating problems all across the country. This August, California firefighters responding to a forest fire were forced to ground their helicopters that were on a mission to put out forest fires due to interference from drones filming the scene.1 In a similar incident, drones flew within 100 feet of two commercial airliners approaching John F. Kennedy airport.2 The pilots reported that the drones were flying at an altitude of about 800 to 900 feet, heights well above new regulations that make it illegal to fly drones above 400 feet or within 5 miles of an airport.3 The JFK airport incident was not an isolated event. The FAA reported that drone sightings by pilots had nearly tripled from 238 in 2014 to 650 this year so far. Some of these drones were reported to be flying at heights of up to 10,000 feet, pilots reported.4 It is clear from these reports that many drone operators are not following current regulations. The FAA should consider alternate approaches to drone regulation such as mandating a safety feature that makes it impossible to fly above 400 feet. Drone owners should also be required to register their drones and equip their drones with identifying transponders. With over 1 million drones in the United States, the FAA needs to have more control over when and where these aircrafts are flying.5 While tiny birds can bring down commercial airplanes, who knows what could happen when a drone gets too close to a plane’s engine?

In addition to safety issues, drones have also been creating privacy concerns. In August, a Kentucky man was charged with wanton endangerment and criminal mischief for shooting down a drone that was hovering in his backyard near where his 16 year-old daughter was laying out by their pool.6 Similarly, a New Jersey man was arrested for allegedly firing at a drone hovering near his home five times with a shotgun.7 Because of the lack of regulation, homeowners feel like they are forced to take matters into their own hands to protect their families and property from aerial trespassers. Some townships, such as Long Beach Township in New Jersey, have enacted their own laws, banning recreational drones along the 12 miles of beachfront in an effort to protect the privacy of beachgoers.8

As drone technology develops further and become cheaper, more drone hobbyists will emerge. The time has come for the FAA to enact mandatory safety features onto drones and enforce stricter drone laws. It is up to the FAA, not local towns or homeowners with guns, to fix the very real problem of uncontrolled drone use in our country.

  1. Drones hamper US firefighting efforts, BBC News (July 20, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-33593981.
  2. Joshua Berlinger, 2 airliners fly within 100 feet of drone above New York, CNN (Aug. 3, 2015), http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/01/us/drone-airliner-jfk/
  3. Id.
  4. Matthew Wall, Can technology keep our skies safe from nuisance drones?, BBC News (Aug. 25, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33989289
  5. Id.
  6. Father shot down drone in backyard hovering over his daughter, KFOR News (Aug. 3, 2015), http://kfor.com/2015/08/03/it-was-the-same-as-trespassing-father-shoots-down-drone-in-backyard-hovering-over-his-daughter/
  7. Chris Eger, New Jersey man indicted on felony charges for drone shoot down, Guns.com (Aug. 26, 2015), http://www.guns.com/2015/08/26/new-jersey-man-indicted-on-felony-charges-for-drone-shoot-down/
  8. Erik Larsen, Long Beach Township bans drones, App.com (May 26, 2015), http://www.app.com/story/news/local/ocean-county/2015/05/22/long-beach-township-bans-drones/27817439/

Author: Amy Pujara

Amy Pujara is an associate editor for the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal. Amy graduated from Seton Hall University in 2014 with a Bachelor degree in Finance. While there, she was a columnist for the Setonian and a member of Phi Alpha Delta. She was also the Chair of the Academic Development Committee, which aimed to help students with tutoring, study groups, and career guidance. Since coming to Rutgers School of Law, Amy has been involved in the Environmental Law Society and Criminal Law Society and hopes to pursue a career in corporate law.