- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

PUHI, Hawaii (AP) - Operating a drone is kind of scary, but it is fun said Kasey Nakashima, a Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School student.

Nakashima worked on a project with the CKMS media class using a drone.

“This one that we used will probably have to be registered,” said Kevin Matsunaga, class instructor. “It’s more than half a pound, and I heard the Federal Aviation Administration talking about it. I’m not surprised they’re doing this.”

The FAA announced it will require that aircraft, including drones, be registered to make it easier to identify owners and educate amateur aviators.

The move to register aircraft starting Dec. 21 comes at a time when the FAA is receiving more than 100 reports a month about drones flying near manned aircraft and airports, despite an FAA rule prohibiting drones and model airplanes from flying higher than 400 feet, or within five miles of an airport.

“The software which comes with the drone is pretty amazing,” Matsunaga said. “We were testing this model in the lower parking lot of the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, and when we turned it on, we got a message warning us that we were in a restricted zone. The software let us fly the drone, but with future software and firmware updates, the manufacturer could actually prevent the aircraft from flying.”

Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists. The FAA estimates that 1.6 million small unmanned aircraft will be sold this year, with half during the final three months of the year.

The drones must be marked with the owner’s registration number, allowing authorities to track down owners if they violate the rules. But the registration allows the agency a vehicle to educate owners as thousands get drones as Christmas presents.

“Flying a drone is kind of like flying those toy helicopters,” Nakashima said. “I flew one of the toy helicopters and crashed it. Flying the drone, especially with a camera, is scary, but it’s fun. I didn’t crash the drone.”

Registration requirements cover aircraft weighing more than a half-pound up to 55 pounds, including any payload such as a camera. Drone owners who are 13 years old and older will have to register on an FAA website that becomes available starting Dec. 21. The FAA is expecting parents to register for younger children.

Registration will cost $5 and must be renewed every three years, but the fee will be waived for the first 30 days until Jan. 20. Owners will have to mark aircraft with an identification number. Recreational fliers can register as many aircraft as they desire on one registration number.

Those who got drones before Dec. 21 must register with the FAA by Feb. 19. People who get drones, or aircraft after Dec. 21, must register before their first outdoor flight.

Owners will have to provide their name, home address, and email, and their identity will be verified. Payments must be made by credit card.

“Most people who fly drones and model aircraft have little aviation experience, but they become pilots as soon as they start to fly,” said Michael Whitaker, deputy FAA administrator. “They have the responsibility to fly safely, and there are rules and regulations that apply to them.”

Matsunaga said they used their drone on just two projects since acquiring the aircraft.

“These things are amazing in what they can do,” Matsunaga said. “When we did the project on the biomass plant in Koloa, we did discuss it with the people before getting started, and they told us what we were able to do and which areas were prohibited. We do need to be mindful of other people when using drones.”


Information from: The Garden Island, https://thegardenisland.com/



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