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Drone owners should be placed on register, says House of Lords

The House of Lords has recommended that all drone owners are placed on an online register.

With the number of commercially available drones expected to rise rapidly over the next few years, the upper house of the UK parliament has urged the EU to create the database as a safety precaution.

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In a report titled “Civilian Use of Drones in the EU,” the House of Lords EU Committee indicated that the proposal would initially look to register businesses and professionals before being expanded to include the general public.

Chief Inspector Nick Aldworth of the Metropolitan Police explained that a drone register would help authorities manage and track drone traffic, as well as intervene if they are involved in accidents or criminal activity.

"Unless there is a sound and unarguable way of finding and identifying the pilot, there is nowhere to start quite frankly,” he said.

The report also suggested some additional safety regulation surrounding drone use, including geo-fencing, better police guidance, and more awareness of drone insurance options.

While the report did make it clear that over-regulation should not hinder the growth of the drone industry, there is a growing realisation that current safety legislation is inadequate for dealing with the new technology.

In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently proposed a series of new laws surrounding drone use, including weight, speed and location restrictions. While drones have not yet been widely adopted by the general public, there have already been some notable incidents involving their use. Earlier this week, several drones were spotted flying overhead in Paris, raising public fears around drone-based terrorism.

Professor David Dunn of The Royal Institute of International Affairs told the BBC that the House of Lords’ proposed legislation may not be enough to prevent a drone tragedy.

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"Law abiding citizens are likely to register, but it would be very difficult to stop terrorists and other criminals from purchasing drones abroad and then using them here," he said. "The technologies have the capacity to crash into people and kill them, as they have done in the States. Some of them can be used to carry 1kg of weight - so they could be used to carry explosives.”

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.