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ALPF policy group's Stuckenberg urges licensing, background checks for drone operators

David Stuckenberg, ALPF

By Steve Bittenbender

As the Transportation Secretary waits on the findings from a task force looking at how to establish a registration system for unmanned aircraft, a public policy organization is calling on Congress to take additional action to help make the skies safer.

The American Leadership and Policy Foundation said Congress should consider requiring background checks performed on people who purchase drones and the components to make such unmanned machines. A licensing and certification process also should be examined.

“Similar policies have produced positive results in other industries,” said David Stuckenberg, the foundation’s chairman, in a press release.

In February, the foundation called on the federal government to create a registry for drone operators, citing a marked increase in the number of drone sightings by pilots as well as the possibility that drones used by operators with malicious intent could create a catastrophic event.

Last month, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the creation of a panel to come up with recommendations for such a registry. The panel includes representatives from unmanned system manufacturers, the manned aviation industry, federal agencies and other key stakeholders. Foxx has asked the group to determine what should be excluded from the registry, such as remote controlled aircraft sold as toys, as well as finding ways to make it easier for commercial operators to register their drone fleets.

“Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system,” Foxx said.  “It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

Foxx is expected to receive those recommendations by Nov. 20.

“Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly,” said Michael Huerta, the administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration. “When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”

But while the foundation has advocated for a registry, specifically in a research paper published by The Harvard National Security Journal, that alone will not be enough, according to an ALPF spokesman.

“While the current review being conducted by the DOT and the reality of recreational drone registration are major steps in the right direction, the issues surrounding drones are myriad and much work remains to be done,” said David Liapis, ALPF Director of Communications.

Besides serving as the ALPF chairman, Stuckenberg is also an Air Force veteran who logged nearly 1,000 hours flying combat missions in surveillance, reconnaissance and jet aircraft. He said he has met with Congressional and Defense leaders to brief them on the research the foundation has conducted.

Based in Kansas City, Mo., the nonpartisan foundation has more than 50 fellows conducting research on issues such as drone aircraft and the safety of the nuclear power grid. The foundation says it receives its funding strictly from individual citizens and not from the government or special interest groups. For more about the foundation, visit their Web site at www.alpf.org.


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