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ALPA: Congress Should Mandate Online Training For UAV Operators

BY Alan Perlman
15 February 2016

Source: Air Transport World (ATW)
By: Aaron Karp

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The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) wants Congress to mandate that small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) owners pass an online training course before being allowed to operate their devices.

The proposal, outlined by ALPA president Tim Canoll during a Feb. 1 briefing with journalists in Washington DC, calls for UAV owners to be required to gain a “key code” by passing an online training course. Small UAVs, like those being sold by retailers like Walmart, would not be able to be operated until the correct key code is plugged into the device via a mechanism that would have to be created by UAV manufacturers.

“I’d like [UAV manufacturers] to voluntarily do it, but I believe if we could mandate it, it would take a lot of pressure off them,” he said, noting the federal government “would have to outline what the education curriculum is” for the online training course. Canoll said the mandate should be included in FAA reauthorization legislation expected to be taken up by Congress later this year.

Canoll acknowledged to ATW that “there is no answer” for retroactively requiring small UAV owners who already own devices to pass the online test. “All you can do going back is encourage them to take the online test” if and when it is created, he said.

Canoll said the online test/key code proposal would be another “layer” of safety to help prevent a collision between a small UAV and a commercial airliner. He said the proposal would build on the mandatory registration process for recreational UAVs weighing between .55 lbs. and 55 lbs. created late last year by FAA.

Canoll noted he has used FAA’s online UAV registration process himself. “I’m registered,” he said. “It was super easy to register and markup my Phantom 3 drone with a number” provided by FAA.

Those who owned small UAVs prior to Dec. 21 have until Feb. 19 to register the devices with FAA. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) has said it does not believe its members should be subject to FAA’s registration rule. But the organization said in a statement that its exploration of “all legal and political options available … may take time and a definitive solution is unlikely before the Feb. 19 registration deadline. Therefore, AMA members are now required by regulation to register their aircraft with the FAA to avoid federal enforcement and potential penalties.”

Canoll warned, “If they try and weaken the registration requirements, they’re going to get a fight from us … I have a lot of respect for the modelers … The problem is there are a lot of people out there [using small UAVs] who aren’t modelers, who are out there just operating a toy.”

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