Concerned by a rise in near collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets, the world's airlines back development of a United Nations-led global registry for drones, an executive of their trade group said on Tuesday.
The International Air Transport Association backs efforts by the United Nations' aviation agency to develop such a registry, which could also help track the number of incidents involving drones and jets, said Rob Eagles, IATA's director of air traffic management infrastructure.
IATA would consider collaborating with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with using the registry for data analysis to improve safety.
ICAO is developing the registry as part of broader efforts to come up with common rules for flying and tracking unmanned aircraft.
"One of the important things we would like to see on a registry as well is the compilation of data which would include incident and accident reporting," Eagles said in an interview on the sidelines of IATA's Safety and Flight Ops Conference in Montreal.
Airlines and airport operators are looking to drone registries, geo-fencing technology and stiffer penalties for operating drones near airports. They hope these steps will ensure flying remains safe as hobbyists and companies like Amazon.com Inc use more drones.
In Britain, the number of near misses between drones and aircraft more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year, according to the UK Airprox Board.
Air New Zealand Ltd said last month a flight from Tokyo with 278 passengers and crew on board encountered a drone estimated to be just five meters away from the Boeing 777-200 jet during its descent into Auckland.
A single registry would create a one-stop-shop that would allow law enforcement to remotely identify and track unmanned aircraft, along with their operator and owner.
It's not yet clear what kind of drones would be listed in the registry, although IATA would support inclusion of most drones, including large unmanned aircraft and smaller ones used for commercial and industrial purposes, Eagles said.
"The intention at present is to merge this activity into the ICAO registry for manned aircraft, so that the sector has a single consolidated registry network," said ICAO spokesman Anthony Philbin by email.
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