Bill Nelson Wants Limits on Drones Around Airports

1google-droneNowadays, drones are widely used by hobbyists for photography and corporations for surveying purposes. The growing use of drones is adding to safety concerns and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla. called a meeting of the top executives of seven of Florida’s largest airports. The meeting was held at Orlando International Airport on Friday.

Drones are quickly becoming a threat to airliners and need to be federally regulated to ensure that they don’t get too close to airplanes landing or taking off from airports, agreed Florida’s aviation leaders that included Phil Brown, executive director of Orlando International Airport; Emilio Gonzalez with Miami International Airport; Joe Lopano with Tampa International Airport; Rick Piccolo with Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport; Parker McClellan from NW Florida Beaches International Airport; Tom Jewsbury from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, and Steve Grossman, chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. Kevin Burke, president of the Airports Council International-North America, was also present at the meeting.

Nelson, who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, called drones near airports “an accident that is waiting to happen” and said he asked the FAA for tougher rules and to help airports install technologies that would allow them to take control of any drones that could fly nearby.

Federal law already forbids drones from flying within five miles of airports but Emilio Gonzalez, Phil Brown and Rick Piccolo said pilots had recently reported spotting a drone flying nearby as they were landing or taking off a plane. Burke added it is increasingly becoming a problem at airports around the country.

Nelson suggested two types of technology to better control drones that pose a threat to commercial airspace. The first is a software to install in future drones that would keep drones from flying into restricted airspace. The second includes an electric fence: the airports would monitor drone radio frequencies and take control of any drones if it gets too close to an airfield. This would allow the airport to navigate the drone away and gather information about drone’s owner.

According to Piccolo, “we really need a federal standard,” as well as “a federal way to enforce this.” “This is a national issue that can only be solved with a system of regulations,” said Steve Grossman.