Feb 9, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal
Sen. Bill Nelson met with several airport officials — including Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman — to discuss the importance of drone regulation, especially when it comes to airport safety.
Sen. Bill Nelson is looking to ramp up federal regulations on drones.
“A drone flying too close to an airport is an accident waiting to happen," Nelson said on Friday after meeting with leaders from statewide airports. "I’ve asked the FAA to increase its efforts to research and test the various technologies being developed to prevent a drone from flying into a sensitive area such as an airport. When it comes to getting these technologies installed at our nation’s airports, time is of the essence.”
Grossman told the Business Journal that Nelson's meeting was to assess what can be done to help airports with the enforcement of regulations on drone technology.
“He wanted to get our opinions of what was going on at airports and how we view the situation,” Grossman said. “He's talking about the need for potential regulations. These things are being sold in the millions and they're out there, but there really isn't much regulation with any teeth in it.”
Those two issues — the prevalence of drones and the question of how to enforce regulations — are some of the big challenges airports are facing, Grossman said.
In fact some airports, like Miami, are passing their own regulations on where drones can and can't be flown in regards to the airport, and are assigning penalties if an unmanned aerial system is being flown in that area.
While that's a possibility in Jacksonville, Grossman said so far it hasn't been necessary. Right now, the rules say that a drone can't be flown within five miles of Jacksonville International Airport or within three miles of Jacksonville's other three airports. But the issue comes with enforcing that and catching up with the technology.
“It could happen if the problem rears its ugly head here,” he said. 'We have not had many incidents at all with drones endangering the area within airports, or at least nothing that can be verified. So if there's not federal action taken or just some state action taken, the regulations will have no meaning and no penalty. If we see drones start to encroach, we might recommend to the city an ordinance be passed just to give JSO authority to do something if they find anything.”
But Grossman said a more cohesive plan — including what Sen. Nelson is trying to bring together — would be more effective.
“We don't want to see a hodgepodge of local regulations,” he said. “Through our industrial associations, we're working with the federal government and state Legislature. We don't want to see individual laws in every city, though.”