Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone stalking, and identifying the drone pilot. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
Dear Drone Girl, I believe my ex is stalking me via drone. I have multiple pictures from my security cameras. How can I check to see if he is registered for flying UAS or has registered to fly UAS?
Yikes, that is scary! Drone stalking is interesting. They are loud and large so they are actually pretty noticeable. Clearly you noticed them. The tricky thing though is it can be difficult to identify the pilot. Is it just a neighbor kid flying their gadget? Or in your case, is it an ex stalking you?
The Federal Aviation Administration once had a rule that all drone pilots had to register, but that was struck down in May. There is now no law requiring drone pilots to register. And even if they were required to, the database only publicly shows zip code and city of the registered pilots. The FAA does not post the names and street addresses of registered owners because the data is exempt from disclosure under a FOIA exemption that protects information in agency files from a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
However, if you ex is an FAA-certified commercial drone pilot under Part 107, you may be in better luck. You can browse the FAA’s public registry of Part 107-certifed remote pilots here. In order to browse the database, you will have to start by submitting information about yourself, including your name and address. From there, you can browse all airmen.
But even spotting your ex in that database doesn’t mean a whole lot. Even if your ex is Part 107 certified, who knows if it is their drone, and not the neighbor kid’s drone? What you’re really asking for, it sounds like, is a way to identify the owner drone flying above you.
Drone identification is coming, but it’s not here yet.
This June, the FAA’s UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (sometimes referred to as ARC) met for the first time. The group is working on means of remotely identifying drones while they’re in the air, as well as finding the pilot operating that drone.
Many suspect that the FAA could implement some sort of drone identification system similar to automotive license plates, which allow law enforcement to identify a vehicle’s owner without stopping the car. Others have suggested that the FAA could come out with a system that tracks or records the location of all drones in real time. The group will submit its recommendations to the FAA by October, and is expected to wrap up its work by November. You can read more about the ARC’s efforts around drone identification here.