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Old July 12th, 2016, 12:12 PM   #1
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Proposed fines... from USA Today

FAA bill aims to prevent drones flying near airports
, USA TODAY 10:35 p.m. EDT July 11, 2016

A technician flies the surveillance drone "Helper" and the life buoy during a demonstration of a rescue operation over the beach of Biscarrosse on July 8, 2016.(Photo: GEORGES GOBET, AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration will study ways to reduce the risk of drones flying near airports and to create an air-traffic control system for remote-controlled aircraft under a bill the House approved Monday by voice vote.

The safety provisions expected to be approved the Senate and sent to President Obama this week come after the FAA completed its first comprehensive rule governing commercial drones. The rule completed in June applies to drones weighing up to 55 pounds and limits flights up to 400 feet in the air during daylight hours within sight of the pilot. Hobbyists have similar guidelines.

But as more than 400,000 drone pilots registered with FAA by June — far outnumbering the number of passenger planes — concerns grew about how to avoid collisions.

The bill creates a $20,000 fine for flying a drone too close to wildfire aircraft, police or other emergency responders. The U.S. Forest Service said drones flew too close to firefighting aircraft 20 times last year and at least nine times this year, hindering firefighting efforts.

The bill also authorized $6 million to study ways to reduce the risks of remote-controlled aircraft around airports. The FAA is already researching ways with CACI International to detect and possibly disable drones by tracking their radio signals.

Drones are supposed to stay at least 5 miles away from airports unless they have permission from air-traffic controllers in the tower. But airline pilots occasionally report seeing drones while taking off or landing at busy airports. No collisions have been confirmed.

“This legislation includes provisions to manage the safe integration of drones,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the Transportation Committee.

“We balance the need for integration of drones with the need to protect the general public in the national airspace,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the top Democrat on the panel.

The bill also called on FAA to report to Congress every six months for two years about its research and development with NASA of an air-traffic control system for drones. NASA has led a team of industry members for years to determine ways to keep drones separated like passenger planes.

FAA isn’t expected to guide drones as controllers guide passenger planes. But drone operators and manufacturers are expected to develop a system for them and their aircraft to communicate with each other, to avoid collisions.

Another provision in the bill calls on the Transportation Department to develop a way within six months for applicants to ask FAA to prohibit or restrict drone flights over facilities such as oil refineries, chemical plants and amusement parks.

One drone provision from the Senate version of the FAA bill that wasn’t included in the compromise legislation would have confirmed the federal supremacy in governing drones.

The FAA contends it governs all flights, even without extra legislation. Senate language approved in a 95-3 vote sought to reinforce FAA’s authority governing the “design, manufacture, testing, licensing, registration, certification, operation, or maintenance of an unmanned aircraft system, including airspace, altitude, flight paths, equipment or technology requirements, purpose of operations, and pilot, operator, and observer qualifications, training, and certification.”

But the provision was contentious as city and state officials argued that they are in the best position to set policies dealing with weapons and privacy that don't specifically deal with flight. Dozens of states have adopted laws covering pilot training and prohibiting weapons on drones or flying over private property.

FAA bill aims to prevent drones flying near airports
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