In prepared testimony for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ (AMA) Government and Regulatory Affairs Director Rich Hanson highlighted the complex picture of U.S. drone activity and described the organization’s analysis of the more than 700 records of “sightings” released by the FAA. Hanson also emphasized the need for more education and called on the FAA to finalize its small UAS rules and step up enforcement.

“We have been very concerned about recent headlines … [t]hat’s why AMA closely analyzed the 764 records of ‘drone sightings.’ Indisputably, there are some records of ‘near misses’ that represent actual safety concerns, and more needs to be done to address those. But we found that the number of ‘near misses’ appears to be in the dozens, not the hundreds, based on explicit notations in the FAA records,” said Hanson in prepared remarks.

“There’s some useful information in the FAA’s dataset, but this data is only helpful if the FAA, the media and others take the time to analyze and accurately categorize it,” Hanson said. “AMA has worked closely with the FAA for many years, and we are committed to a continued partnership to promote model aircraft and consumer drone safety. And while the FAA needs to do a better job presenting the data, AMA has several recommendations to ensure the safety of our nation’s airspace.”

Among AMA’s recommendations, Hanson stated: “One of the most immediate and helpful things the FAA can do to increase safety is to finalize and implement its small UAS rules. The proposed rules will enhance safety by requiring everyone who wants to fly to either participate in the safety programming of a community-based organization, like AMA, or follow new FAA rules for commercial operators. Once implemented, the new rules will help provide oversight and education for all UAS operators.”

Hanson also called on the FAA to “step up enforcement of existing regulations and work more closely with local law enforcement to pursue bad actors. There are existing federal prohibitions against careless and reckless operations, and many jurisdictions have criminal laws in place.”

“Additionally, promoting safety through education is another important step we can all take. That’s why AMA launched ‘Know Before You Fly’ along with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the FAA last December. This campaign works to put important safety information and flying tips in the hands of newcomers,” Hanson added.