Culver City Edition

Airport officials look forward to drone regulations

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles airport officials hailed plans by federal authorities to require that drones be registered, saying the move will help address a “dangerous” increase in sightings of such devices flying uncomfortably close to aircraft.

Patrick Gannon, police chief for Los Angeles World Airports, which manages the city-owned Los Angeles International Airport and Van Nuys Airport, said the agency “is concerned with the increasing number of reports of unmanned aircraft systems,” also known as drones, flying close to airplanes and other manned aircraft “in violation of federal laws.”

“This is dangerous to the flying public and to people on the ground,” Gannon said.

Having drone registrations on file will help increase accountability, encourage more responsible operation of the devices and “enhance multi-agency law-enforcement efforts to track down violators,” Gannon said

In announcing plans for a drone-registration system, Federal Aviation Administration officials cited statistics showing the number of reported drones sightings by airplane pilots doubled from last year to this year.

In the Los Angeles area, about 60 sightings were reported to the FAA during a recent nine-month period, according to data provided by the federal agency.

The majority of the local sightings were reported in the city of Los Angeles, with several also in Burbank, Santa Monica, Van Nuys, Long Beach and other areas.

Van Nuys Airport Manager Jess Romo said airport officials support the registration system.

“We don’t want the use of drones to interfere with manned aircraft, helicopters, jets or planes,” Romo told City News Service.

He said that fortunately, there have not been any dangerously close calls at the Van Nuys Airport. Pilots know to report any drones they see, and some who also fly drones as a hobby have been warned not to fly them at the airport, Romo said.

Drone operators in Los Angeles who flout certain FAA rules will soon face harsher penalties than in other places. The Los Angeles City Council last week voted to give local law enforcement the ability to file misdemeanor charges against people who fly drones within a five-mile radius of an airport.

The city ordinance also restricts drone interference with manned aircraft, requires that drones be flown within the operator’s line of sight and prohibits using drones at night and flying them higher than 400 feet. Drones also cannot be flown closer than 25 feet from another person, except at take-off and landing.

Councilman Mitch Englander, a co-author of the ordinance, said the city law would work in concert with any future regulations issued by the FAA.

“The new drone regulations in the city of Los Angeles require compliance with all FAA rules and regulations, both currently existing and enacted in the future,” Englander said. “As drones become increasingly popular, with literally tens of thousands sold each month, it is critically important to ensure this technology is operated responsibly and does not jeopardize the safety of manned aircraft.”