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US to create drone registry for hobbyists

Owners of recreational drones in the United States will soon have to register them. Popular devices have become a growing hazard in the skies.

US President Barack Obama's administration said Monday that it would require drone owners to register their unmanned aircraft as part of an effort to curtail rogue drone flights that pose a danger to commercial aircraft and crowded public venues.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Michael Huerta told a joint news conference they were setting up a task force to move ahead with the registration plans.

"We do feel the level of urgency here is sufficient to move as quickly as we possibly can," Foxx said.

The FAA said that pilots of airliners and other planes report up to 100 sightings of drones or near collisions per month, despite rules that prohibit operation near airports.

For

recreational drone pilots

in the US, the rules are clear: no higher than 400 feet (122 meters), always within sight and nowhere near an airport without permission.

But officials complain they are virtually powerless to clamp down on reckless behavior.

"Finding the drone has not been as much of a problem as finding the person who was using the drone," Foxx said. "The registration is designed to close that loophole."

'Interfering with commercial aviation'

The FAA has reported more than 650 unauthorized drone sightings so far this year, as of August 9, compared with 238 for all of 2014. If sightings continue at that rate, the number would near 1,100 by the year end.

A drone owners' association is cooperating with the government to help craft regulations, but cautions against trying to bring in new rules too quickly.

"It's going to be a very difficult task to do by November 20. But the best course of action is to look at this and say, let's do the best we can," said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, one of two drone industry groups on a task force advising the government agencies.

jar/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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