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FAA drone rule would let police track the aircraft

A proposed rule would require most drones to be trackable in real time by the Federal Aviation Administration, police and government security agencies.

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Zipline drone package drop

California startup Zipline's drones are already in use delivering blood to hospitals in Rwanda, and the company hopes to expand to other countries.

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As more and more drones fill the skies, the US' main aviation regulator wants to be able to keep an eye on them. The Federal Aviation Administration proposed a rule Thursday that calls for most drones to have remote IDs that would let officials track them in real time.

"Remote ID technologies will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and Federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction," US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in an FAA release.

The rule would apply to all drones required to register with the agency, which means recreational drones of about a half a pound or less would be exempt. The agency noted that it's working toward a "traffic management ecosystem" for drone flights that's "separate from, but complementary to, the air traffic management system."

Drones are already handling jobs such as making movies, monitoring oil refineries, gathering military intelligence and aiding search and rescue operations. And a number of companies are working on drone technology. Amazon Prime Air has a new delivery drone design, and UPS wants to deliver medical supplies to hospitals and to homes.

But drones can also cause trouble. Around this time last year, drone sightings disrupted services at the UK's second-busiest airport, causing problems for tens of thousands of holiday travelers, as flights were canceled, delayed or diverted. And though firefighters are looking to drones to help battle blazes, the pint-size aircraft have also been known to interfere with planes dropping water and chemical retardants.

The FAA made the proposed drone regulation available via the Federal Register, the US government's official journal, and will open a 60-day public-comment period "in the coming days," the release said. The agency will consider that feedback while putting together the final rule.