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Government Privacy

Drone Registration Is FAA's Way of Getting You To Read Their "EULA" (hackaday.com) 131

szczys writes: There is little to complain about when it comes to the new FAA rules regarding drones (unless perhaps you live in DC). The regulations are basically an End User Licensing Agreement and focus on educating responsible operators. Eight simple rules cover how to avoid doing dangerous things with Unmanned Aerial Systems. The FAA has even left alone the small toy drones, and the certification system for those above 55 lbs remains. The one aspect that is concerning is that of privacy; the drone database will be publicly searchable and contains names and addresses of drone owners. If the DMV keeps license plate data protected, the FAA should do the same.
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Drone Registration Is FAA's Way of Getting You To Read Their "EULA"

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  • nope. not should. could. might. maybe, but not should.
    • The FAA is a federal agency. Aren't all federal databases open and online? Airplane registrations are; radio licenses are.

      • And with good reason. Isn't the whole point of the registry to be able to contact the owner of a wayward quadcopter and hold them responsible for whatever has caused it to be in your possession.

        • This is about Unmanned Aircraft Systems, not just quadcopters. Drones come in all sorts of rotor numbers, including zero.
        • >And with good reason. Isn't the whole point of the registry to be able to contact the owner of a wayward quadcopter and hold them responsible for whatever has caused it to be in your possession.

          Yes, but not directly. If somebody knocks out your mailbox with their car, you take down that license plate number, and give it to the police, who then run the plates and get a warrant. You can't directly get the name of who owns that license plate number and show up at the dude's door, and nor should you.

          If so

          • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

            then you can call the police and report it. Then let them figure out who the owner is.

            Except many police depts will probably not bother. i.e. San Jose police no longer respond to burglaries and other thefts (they might if in progress).

            • > Except many police depts will probably not bother.

              That's a problem with the police that should be solved. The interim solution is not going to get in fights with strangers.

          • > That prevents you from harassing a guy who was doing something perfectly legal that you think ought to be illegal.

            You've made an excellent point which should be modded up. Car analogies often suck but yours was perfect.

            I live right by a school, and I have about a half dozen "drones" that need to be registered. They are all fixed-wing models. A couple of years ago they'd be "toys," not "OMG DRONES" but whatever.

            I am worried that any time a parent at that school imagines an infraction putting their kid a

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by BitterOak ( 537666 )

        The FAA is a federal agency. Aren't all federal databases open and online? Airplane registrations are; radio licenses are.

        Well, one difference is that radios and airplanes don't tend to be owned by kids. So lets say your kid is a popular Youtuber or Viner. Your phone number is unlisted, so various viewers including pedophiles and whatnot cannot easily find him/her based on name. Now your kid flies his drone in a video. All of a sudden, several of his/her "fans" look up his/her name and street address in the federal database. Most likely no one will show up at your doorstep, but it takes only one crazy stalker. There are

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The FAA is a federal agency. Aren't all federal databases open and online? Airplane registrations are; radio licenses are.

          Well, one difference is that radios and airplanes don't tend to be owned by kids. So lets say your kid is a popular Youtuber or Viner. Your phone number is unlisted, so various viewers including pedophiles and whatnot cannot easily find him/her based on name. Now your kid flies his drone in a video. All of a sudden, several of his/her "fans" look up his/her name and street address in the federal database. Most likely no one will show up at your doorstep, but it takes only one crazy stalker. There are serious privacy and safety implications here.

          Ignoring how letting your kid become "Internet famous" is somehow a lesser problem than this registry...

          Why wouldn't you register your kid's toy in YOUR name? I'd be surprised if minors were even allowed to register. Even so, what parents wouldn't do that anyway?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Well, one difference is that radios and airplanes don't tend to be owned by kids.

          There are kids as young as five who hold amateur radio licenses, and, yes, their info is in the FCC ULS.

          • 13 years old and above register on their own. Younger than that, and their parents/guardians must register.
        • The FAA is a federal agency. Aren't all federal databases open and online? Airplane registrations are; radio licenses are.

          Well, one difference is that radios and airplanes don't tend to be owned by kids. So lets say your kid is a popular Youtuber or Viner. Your phone number is unlisted, so various viewers including pedophiles and whatnot cannot easily find him/her based on name. Now your kid flies his drone in a video. All of a sudden, several of his/her "fans" look up his/her name and street address in the federal database. Most likely no one will show up at your doorstep, but it takes only one crazy stalker. There are serious privacy and safety implications here.

          Given that a vast majority of rapes are comitted by a family member or someone he knows, what have you done to stop the kid's uncle? What protections are in place to stop his mother from violently violating him? How are you restraining his best friend whose only desire and purpose in life is to insert himself into the boy's rear? If you think about those, you'd say it's silly, but there's an 82% chance this would happen and not some stranger. [rainn.org] I really don't get this irrational paranora, since people never

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            I brought some facts to a debate here a while back and it's time to trot it out again - it's been a while.

            If you *really* wanna mess with 'em - tell them that the only group with a lower rate of recidivism is murderers. This number has not changed with registries except it's slightly moved to be a little more frequent but they're still almost the least likely to re-offend. See FBI stats for more information. I think I was also able to pull out some stats from the UN the last time I went looking.

        • All of a sudden, several of his/her "fans" look up his/her name and street address in the federal database. Most likely no one will show up at your doorstep, but it takes only one crazy stalker.

          Your kid is most likely to get abducted by a family member or friend, and he already knows your address.

          And do you think the proverbial "crazy stalker" can't see your kid playing in front of the house or coming home from school? Do you think the crazy stalker can't see the license plate on your wife's mini-van and

          • Your kid is most likely to get abducted by a family member or friend, and he already knows your address.

            Just because a kid is more likely to get abducted by a family member doesn't mean it isn't sensible to take precautions to protect them from other possible dangers. Just because most house fires start because of dryer lint or smoking in bed doesn't mean you should leave unattended burning candles in your living room.

            Your address is in big numbers on the front of your house. When did it become "private information".

            The address number in the front of my house isn't private information. The mapping of my child's name to that address ought to be kept private. At least from the public on the Internet.

      • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

        Aren't all federal databases open and online? Airplane registrations are; radio licenses are.

        We're getting into an interesting era. Yes, all tail numbers and radio callsigns (except federal agency radio callsigns per NTIA). There are also licenses issued by Dept of Consumer Affairs (state agencies) that have have open databases. But only airplane and radio buffs and people in the business follow this stuff. As many common drones get tail numbers, then many in general public learn of these open and online databases they might get "worrisome." Kind of like all of sudden you have scanner feed websites

  • --because the FAA says the database will be searchable, so all the info you enter will be available to anybody that wants it.

    How long until folks start getting all sorts of exciting offers based on their registrations?

    See, isn't that a whole lot better than OPM? Go ahead and enter that credit card number...
    • Like all the exiting offers based on bog-knows-what that I already get? I doubt I'd notice.

    • It really doesn't matter. Contrary to OP's claim, there is a lot to complain about.

      For starters -- and it might as well be finishers, because it is by itself plenty of reason to complain -- it is yet another example of Federal overreach into jurisdictions the Constitution simply does not allow.

      I could argue the matter here for hours, with facts and history going back 200+ years, but I've done all that here before, so I won't do it again. Regardless of whether their regulation is "benign", they don't h
      • FYI: Your complaining doesn't actually have an effect on the problem. You just make us scroll slightly farther to get to something interesting. If you want to do something that's actually useful, volunteer to help the homeless in your area. If you want to keep venting about how bad the federal government is, have at it.
        • Venting serves its purpose, and I do my share to help people, thanks very much. And I don't much care whether you approve of the way I go about it.
      • ... it is yet another example of Federal overreach into jurisdictions the Constitution simply does not allow.

        Never mind any Constitutional issues, Congress passed the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, a set of legal directives in Federal law to the FAA, which state in part;

        "The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft."

        Therefor this drone registration program is in direct violation of Federal law.

        Until the law is changed or abolished by an act of Congress the FAA can go pound sa

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      Occasionally I will look up a tail number on FAA site of an aircraft in a movie or TV show. Many from shows decades ago are still flying but some are not. Database will still list previous owner. A 1960s issue of Life Magazine has a Cessna ad and the plane shown is still flying! Actually this can be fun. I saw an episode of The Man from UNCLE has a Bell 47G helicopter, I looked up the tail number and it is currently registered to Classic Rotors in San Diego. I contacted them and the guy sent me back couple
  • 55lbs is a pretty hefty UAS (not drone).

    The rules are about 0.55lbs (1/100th of that.)
    https://www.faa.gov/uas/regist... [faa.gov]

    Enjoy.

    E

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The FAA website page (which you linked to) explains that these rules are for drones between 0.55 and 55.0 lbs. Drones over 55 lbs are considered aircraft and must be registered as such, using the "old" system. I surmise that drones lighter than 0.55 lbs (250 g) are considered "toys" and do not need to be registered.

      • The real question is whether lighter than air craft count. Can I trick out a surplus barrage balloon with an autopilot? For all it's size, it weighs less than 0.5 lbs.
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          Can I trick out a surplus barrage balloon with an autopilot? For all it's size, it weighs less than 0.5 lbs.

          No, it doesn't. Negative buoyancy doesn't mean negative weight. The blimp still has the same weight it had when deflated. And the mass of the hydrogen or helium used to inflate the blimp also has weight.

  • by redcliffe ( 466773 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @11:18PM (#51206455) Homepage Journal

    Aircraft registrations are publicly available. In my country I can download an Access database with every aircraft in the country in it. They seem to have just taken the same rules that apply to aircraft registrations for drones. If this is to be different for drones, new legislation or regulations will be required.

    • If this is to be different for drones, new legislation or regulations will be required.

      Nonsense. The FAA authorization is quite generic; the FAA could easily keep drone registrations private and make other aircraft registrations public if it wanted to.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You just happen to be dead wrong. The Chicago Convention, as amended, specifies that all ICAO members have an accessible aircraft and airman registry. This is mostly to avoid tax fraud and ensure that pilots are indeed licensed, but it's not, at all, something that the FAA (or congress) has any control of. But, go ahead with your ignorant ranting.

    • The big difference is that the UAS database registers people. You get an FA number that you can attach to as many drones as you desire. The 'aircraft' themselves are not registered. In the traditional aircraft registration system, you can register your plane under your own name - or a holding company's name or what have you.

      You are not going to find Tom Cruise's plane listed as such - it will be owned by some entity like "Xenu Airlines".

      I don't really think it makes a whole lot of difference. I'm in the

    • by Nerobro ( 303656 )

      Airplanes can be registered to corporations. If you chose to, you can completely detach yourself from the airplane you may own. Also, most planes aren't privately owned. Your pilots license isn't publicly searchable. Neither is your drivers license. Neither is your license plate! The drone registration is a registration of pilots, versus UAVs.

      The rules "aren't" the same.

  • There are already a ton of localities making up their own patchwork of rules concerning "drones" because the word is scary and unpopular and doing so is a good way for lawmakers and DAs to make a name for themselves. This needs to stop now that the FAA is doing its job wrt/ the airspace as used by quadcoptors and such. The FARs, AIMs, and NOTAMs, for example, are federal and universally applied. And so long as a regular pilot is in compliance with them, it doesn't much matter what J. Random cop, DA, or m

  • by Known Nutter ( 988758 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @11:39PM (#51206505)
    It is worth pointing out that ham radio operators must already contend with this issue via the FCC license search database. [fcc.gov]

    FTFA:

    There is one argument I've heard against this registry that I think holds water, and that is the privacy concern. The FAA plans to make the drone registration database publicly searchable, and the search results will include owner names and addresses.

    It is completely reasonable to conclude that since the FCC database is capable of reverse lookup (rather than by callsign only), the FAA database will do the same. It also reasonable to conclude that as of now, there are far more ham radio operators than drone operators.

    I'm not making a case for or against this. I'm just pointing out a federal system in place which already has this.

    • It is worth pointing out that ham radio operators must already contend with this issue via the FCC license search database.

      The difference is that the tinfoil-hat-wearing crank down the street won't be going on a fishing expedition for Alien Influenced Drone Operators living on their street, and coming across the mandatory federal registration info for the 13 year old girl who got a 9-ounce pink plastic toy store copter for her birthday.

      • The nine ounce plastic toy doesn't have to be registered. You can register your kid's Phantom in your name and just make sure she has the handy wallet sized authorization paper with her when the FAA stops her in the local park.

        Besides, the crank down the street already knows who she is and has probably memorized her Facebook page. Sucks to be him.

        I would have preferred they made it private, but it's really not a big deal. The bigger deal is the terms of the EULA. Nobody keeps their UAV in sight at all t

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The nine ounce plastic toy doesn't have to be registered.

          Yes, they do. Any RC-controlled flying device over 8.8 ounces has to be registered when purchased, or if previously owned, no later than the middle of February. As the FAA commissioner put it, "We're going after anything that flies." They set the lower limit at 250g (8.8 ounces) specifically so that it would include a very wide range of toy copters, multirotors, and model airplanes.

    • by fred911 ( 83970 )

      The difference is the FCC doesn't require the licensee's station address and the FAA seems to think it has the right to require a home address and make it public without need.

        Big difference.

  • The fee is not particularly excessive, and this is good, but is there any particular reason that does not ultimately reduce to simple bigotry to exclude people who are legally within the USA but not US citizens, possibly even just temporarily visiting from another country, from getting a license to safely fly their so-called "drone" while in the country's borders?
  • how many "Mouse, Michael" entries are we going to see in the database, but more importantly, how many "Dave Gorman" [1] entries?

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @11:47PM (#51206545)

    There is little to complain about...

    Other than the fact that the FAA is closing down model airplane clubs in the absence of any actual regulation being in place, and is threatening people with tens of thousands of dollars in fines for not registering a 9-ounce toy airplane despite the fact that the 2012 FMRA law prohibits the FAA from doing exactly what it just did. Just another example of the executive branch deliberately ignoring laws they don't like. Again.

    There's plenty to complain about.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @12:17AM (#51206715)

      "Other than the fact that the FAA is closing down model airplane clubs..."

      The FAA is not closing down any model airplane clubs nor any other clubs.

      "...in the absence of any actual regulation being in place,"
      Yes, there are regulations now in place.

      "...and is threatening people with tens of thousands of dollars in fines for not registering"
      No, they are not threatening people with fines of tens of thousands of dollars, and they're not
      threatening them for not registering. They are saying if you fly your UAS outside of regulations
      you are subject to fines. That's not about "registration" as much as it is about "regulation."

      "...a 9-ounce toy airplane despite the fact that the 2012 FMRA law prohibits the FAA from doing exactly what it just did. Just another example of the executive branch deliberately ignoring laws they don't like. Again. "
      Adding the word "Again" to a nonsense statement doesn't imply anyone did anything wrong, only that your temper tantrum went on twice as long.

      If you have reason to believe it's unlawful, by all means challenge it. That doesn't mean cry your eyes out on facebook or slashdot. It means file suit. If that's too hard for you and you'd rather someone else does it, that's fine too, just stop crying and wait for the adults to handle the situation.

      The FAA has passed regulations and that's life. You don't like and the tears are flowing and that's life. If you think they are in the wrong and don't have the right to do that then... first you should read up on the last two times they tried and how they got shot down and how they changed their method so now they have their ducks in a row... then dry your eyes... reapply your mascara... and challenge the FAA.

      • Yes, the FAA has closed down model airplane clubs:
        Free State Aeromodelers [flyfreestate.com]
        Looks like it is not so free in the free state of Maryland.
        Their flight field is in Laurel, MD and was outside of the 15 nm no fly zone.
        Many other club fields are also inside of the new 30 nm radius.
        One can only hope that there are many retired lawyers who fly on these fields
        who will be willing to take on these new onerous regulations.

  • If the DMV keeps license plate data protected

    Do they? In my state it is considered a matter of public record and you can get the info on a license plate for a very small fee (I forget if it is $1 or $5).

  • The "EULA" is crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @12:17AM (#51206717) Journal

    "I will fly below 400 feet"

    There is no law or FAA regulation requiring model aircraft to fly below 400 feet. If you accept the FAA's definition of model aircraft being aircraft as defined by the statutes and regulations, the regulation actually says that except for helicopters and except for takeoff and landing approaches, aircraft must stay ABOVE 500 feet. The 400-foot rule is an asspull published in an advisory circular (advisory meaning it does not set any rules). If you do not accept the FAA's definition of model aircraft being aircraft as defined by the statutes and regulations, the FAA has no authority to regulate model aircraft in the first place.

    "I will fly within visual line of sight"

    Once again, reflects only guidance published in an advisory document.

    "I will be aware of FAA airspace requirements"

    These are published in NOTAMs -- notices to airmen. Model aircraft operators are not airmen (unless they have airman's certificates for full-scale flight). Note that if model aircraft are "aircraft", the regs make it illegal to fly one without such a certificate, so registration will not make you legal.

    "I will not fly directly over people"

    Probably a good idea, but another asspull. If model aircraft are "aircraft", flying over people is normal and expected.

    "I will not fly over stadiums and sports events"

    NOTAMs are often issued for sports events, so this one can be fitted into a consistent intepretation.

    "I will not fly near emergency response efforts such as fires"

    Same thing concerning NOTAMS.

    "I will not fly near aircraft, especially near airports"

    Not sure why it's any safer to fly near aircraft when you're not near an airport. Note that if the FAA interpretation is correct, a model airport (including a piece of ground you land your heli or quad) is an airport. And that this would prohibit flying in proximity to other model aircraft (because model aircraft are aircraft, right?)

    "I will not fly under the influence"

    This one can be read consistently.

    • Mod parent up. Very interesting interpretation. Sine IANAL I do not understand the FAA jurisdiction but as implied above, FAA either is considering drones an "aircraft" and has jurisdiction or not and hence does not have anything to say...
       

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The 400-foot rule *is* in the law (FMRA Section 336) but only as part of the definition of operating a model aircraft. That is to say, in order to be treated as a model aircraft with a relaxed set of rules, you must stay under 400 feet.

      Otherwise, the FAA will treat the aircraft the same as a full airplane/helicopter and will attempt to apply all existing rules, including ones that don't make sense for small unmanned vehicles. FMRA Section 333 outlines the process to apply for exemption for many of those rul

      • There is no 400-foot rule (or any other altitude rule) in FMRA section 336.

        The FAA, by promulgating this registration regulation, is treating 336 as a dead letter anyway. Furthermore, 336 provides no regulatory authority to the FAA; it only takes it away.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you do not accept the FAA's definition of model aircraft being aircraft as defined by the statutes and regulations, the FAA has no authority to regulate model aircraft in the first place.

      Unfortunately it's not up to you whether to accept their definition of model aircraft. If you have a problem with it, by all means write the FAA or your congressperson, but for the time being it's the law of the land.

      "I will fly within visual line of sight"

      Once again, reflects only guidance published in an advisory document.

      This isn't advisory. It's part of the definition of "model aircraft" in the regs. FAR Part 1 Section 1.1: "Model aircraft means an unmanned aircraft that is: ...(2) Flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft ..." If you fly beyond line of sight, it's not a model airc

  • There is a lot to complain about the FAA drone registration. The AMA told us members not to register because congress told the FAA they can't make that kind of law. It's still up in the air if it's legal or not.
  • Does throwing a .56lb rock falls under this as well? Or a paper airplane? What is my kid let go of a party balloon?

    • OK after short thought a .56lb paper airplane would be huge and lighter than air (balloon) are by definition lighter than .5lb. The rock does remain though?

    • Under the laws as stated, gluing a paper plane to your iPhone and throwing it out the window would technically make you a criminal. It says "radio controlled device over 250g", it doesn't say it has to be aerodynamic, have rotors or working control surfaces. If you make it vibrate while plummeting to it's doom, it's technically a bad glider.

      That's the problem, the laws are so vaguely worded they might apply to all kinds of products, toys, or things you make, and they're federal laws backed by federal police

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No its not to get you to read the EULA, its to give the FAA legal basis to legislate in this area.

    See it can only legislate in commercial airspace, and not for toys. So its defined toy as a very low bar (less than 500 gms), and it asks you to register.

    So you think "well its free to register, no problem", so you register your toy drone.

    In the process you've done two things:
    1. Accepted FAA's definition of a toy as something less than 500 gms.
    2. Accepted FAAs right to legislate for your drone.

    So then they can

  • by slacktide ( 796664 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @02:01AM (#51207061)
    I am a certificated pilot, and I am an aircraft owner. My name, address, certificate status, medical status, aircraft registration, and aircraft registration status are all available in a publically searchable FAA database. I this is requried of me to be a user of the national airspace system, why should drone operators be exempt?
    • by Morgon ( 27979 )

      Mostly because quadcopters (the vast majority of UAS devices impacted by this b.s.) generally fly under 500 ft, within a 2-mile radius, and since they can hover quite well, they don't need the horizontal and vertical clearance that aircraft (even helicopters) require.

      The only thing your aircraft has in common with UAS is that they both move through the air; I fail to see why you think they should be treated equivalently.

    • by jbwolfe ( 241413 )
      I too am a certificated airman. While I don't know about aircraft owner registrations, an airman can remove the address information from the publicly releasable airman database here: http://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/change_releasability/ [faa.gov]
    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Because most drones (>99%) are flown more-or-less in the "airspace" where kids can throw rocks. You seem to be arguing, for the most part, that one needs to be a pilot to throw rocks. I'm dead serious. The sales heavily favor drones that weigh a couple of ounces - pretty much any drone under $100 is an ounce or two.

      The videos posted to youtube suffer from selection bias towards larger drones.

  • Complete the following questionaire:

    The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a drone with a gun is ___________________________________,

    *shudder* /me puts on a helmet and runs for the hills.

  • Maybe we should just start rigging pyro charges to our drones (especially in areas containing the serials)

    This way if we crash *FWOOSH!* "Well! We've got a melted lump of plastic that we can't ID! MUST BE TERRORISTS!:

    • by geggam ( 777689 )

      Simpler to just put your neighbor's, who did register, FAA ID on your drone . Fly like a nut... crash the drone into something... toss the wiped free from prints controller into the nearest public dumpster

  • The rules are deducible if you are intelligent, have a sense of responsibility towards others, and believe that bad things can happen to *you*.
    Making people read those rules won't make the idiots/sociopaths behave themselves.
    So, next step is tracking and control.

  • This is an extension to the already racist policy of restricting DC airspace. A lot of black people live in Washington DC. This hurts them. I know, there's this BS about the government being there, however can someone say DC is more important than say LA or NYC? Of course not. NYC and LA are more important than a bunch of political blowhards. General Aviation hasn't been used in a terrorist act anywhere in the world. It's just not effective. Get some idiot with a car to do the job. They're a dime a dozen.

    Se

  • If drones have Facial recognition software they'll become ultimate killing machines;

You can not get anything worthwhile done without raising a sweat. -- The First Law Of Thermodynamics

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