November 5, 2015

Whitehouse Introduces Bill to Protect Aircraft from Drones

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse introduced a bill to help protect American air traffic from the growing risk posed by drones.

Whitehouse’s Drone Operator Safety Act would make it a criminal offense to fly a drone in a way that interferes with the operation of manned aircraft in federal airspace.  It also prohibits operators from flying drones in an airport’s arrival or departure flight paths without permission from the airport’s air traffic control tower.  Violators would be subject to a fine, prison time, or both.

“As drones become more popular, it’s important to make sure they’re not endangering aircraft or their passengers.  This bill would encourage flying drones responsibly by cracking down on those who interfere with commercial airspace,” said Whitehouse, who has worked previously on air-safety legislation in the Senate.  “It’s a commonsense way to prevent a few bad actors from giving this new technology a bad name.”

From January to August of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registered 700 reports of drones operating close to manned aircraft.  Four of those incidents took place in Rhode Island, including an incident in April at T.F. Green Airport and a near-miss at Quonset State Airport in July. 

While the FAA has the authority to levy civil penalties on individuals operating drones in a manner that puts people and property at risk, there currently is no criminal provision that directly addresses the unsafe operation of drones.

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