November 23, 2015

Hobby Drone Task Force Snookered by FAA

The report of the FAA-mandated "Drone Task Force" is out -- and it appears that the good folks who offered to help the FAA in its rush to regulate hobby drones have been pretty thoroughly snookered. Not their fault, but that's the obvious result.

Considering that the federal government wants to register aircraft hobbyists when it doesn't register gun owners, you'd think any action would require careful deliberation. But the report indicates otherwise:

Everybody admits this is a terribly rushed job, with key aspects that should have been important to consideration steamrolled over and ignored -- as required by the FAA's inane and nonsensical timeline.

The task force hopes that this doesn't turn into an identity and privacy nightmare. There's no way to validate the identity of registrants except perhaps (in some cases) at point-of-sale for fully-assembled units purchased commercially. For the many other ways these devices are assembled, registered names and addresses could easily be fabricated out of whole cloth -- or perhaps simply registered using the name and address of that neighbor down the street whom you despise!

The task force hopes that the FAA can protect the information in the databases -- names, addresses, and often more -- from abuse, misuse, broad "freedom of information" requests, leaks, etc. -- but there's no guarantee that the FAA is willing to do this or could legally accomplish it.

And that doesn't even cover black hat hackers attacking a government that has shown itself -- repeatedly -- to be utterly incompetent to protect personal data in their databases. How long before the entire hobby drone database with all that personal information is floating around the Net to be abused?

Ignorance and ignoring of the registration requirement will be vast. The task force hopes that the FAA can do something to lower the statutory FAA fine structure (often currently exceeding $25K -- aimed at penalizing drug traffickers and the like) so that ordinary hobbyists aren't wiped out by obviously inappropriate fines. But again, the task force admits that they don't know if the FAA would want to make such changes, or if they legally could do so.

And of course, the folks that all this has ostensibly been aimed to catch -- irresponsible flyers, the theoretical cadre of "drone terrorists" -- and assorted other bad guys -- will as noted above either falsely register to evade identification (and/or to transfer blame to innocent parties) -- or simply won't register at all.

This is shaping up to be a quintessential example of USA regulatory processes at their very worst.

You can read the full report here:

Happy flying.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so.
My opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Posted by Lauren at November 23, 2015 03:13 PM | Permalink
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