The nation's top transportation official said Wednesday that while the U.S. government is "on a good path" when it comes to commercial use of drones, concerns remain about their private use.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told the Kansas aviation industry leaders during a forum in the Wichita suburb of Park City that his agency has received some 3,000 comments regarding proposed rules governing drone use. But he said private users do not always know the rules governing them and can lose control of them.
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Among the things the agency is looking at to rein in their use is working with manufacturers on education programs for people who buy them. Another option is a registration system at the point of sale so that problem drones can be traced to their owners, he said.
Foxx's comments come a week after the Federal Aviation Administration reported that drones had been spotted 650 times this year as of Aug. 9, compared with 238 sightings for all of 2014.
"They can be great for the economy, great for innovation," Foxx said. "But we also have to make sure they are safe and we have a responsibility as an agency. There are other agencies in the federal government that have responsibilities here, including the Department of Homeland Security and others. We are looking at this from an inter-agency perspective, but I am asking our FAA colleagues to drill in on what our authorities allow us to do to create a strong enforcement mechanism."
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran told reporters after the event that drones are important to the Kansas economy, noting the aviation forum took place at the National Institute of Aviation Research's Aircraft Structural Test and Evaluation Center in Park City. The center tests and analyzes the unmanned aerial vehicles, and others such as Kansas State University also have research programs. The state also has some drone manufacturers.
"And then we have customers. Kansas is a place where those unmanned aerial vehicles would be very valuable," Moran said, citing the agriculture, utilities and rail transportation industries as examples.
Moran called the drones "a great opportunity for a state like ours to reap the benefits" — both for customers and for job creation.