The FAA has registered more than a half million drones flown by hobbyists in the past eight months, its top administrator said at a White House gathering, but commercial drones haven't been tackled yet.
Michael Huerta, the Federal Aviation Administration head, disclosed the hobbyist number during the first-ever Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The workshop brought together experts and researchers across industry, academia, and government to talk about various topics areas related to policy, research and development, and the technology of unmanned aircraft systems, according to the White House website.
The FAA announced in January that it had begun registration for hobbyists using drones, which involves a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership and a unique identification number that has to be marked on the aircraft.
Huerta said in prepared remarks on Tuesday that after developing recommendations with an industry task force, the FAA has had a robust registration response.
"But by working together, we got it done – and we've registered more than 500,000 hobbyists in eight months," Huerta said. "To put that in perspective, we only have 320,000 registered manned aircraft – and it took us 100 years to get there."
Huerta said the registration has allowed the FAA to link particular drones with their operators when users are not following rules and assists in enforcement of the unmanned vehicles.
"It also gives us a valuable opportunity to educate users about how to fly their unmanned aircraft safely," Huerta said. "We're encouraging operators to download our free smartphone app, B4UFLY, which lets you know where it's safe and legal to fly a drone. It's available for both Apple and Android devices, and it's already been downloaded more than 85,000 times.
"… In addition to educating hobbyists, we're putting a regulatory framework in place to address the commercial use of drones as well," Huerta added.
The White House announced new initiatives Tuesday to increase the use of drones by businesses, allowing companies to use drones for chores like taking aerial photos of crops and inspecting power lines, according to Fortune magazine.
The White House said an experimental drone delivery program by Google's parent company, Alphabet, would conduct a research study at one of the FAA's six approved drone testing sites as part of its initiative, noted the magazine. The research program is examining the integration of large-scale drone delivery services into commercial airspace, noted Fortune.
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