A hobby drone with a video camera. Photo by Don McCullough via Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration, faced with a surge in unauthorized drone flights, will announce a new initiative on Monday aimed at registering the owners of drones, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The registration will reportedly even affect owners of hobby drones, which have become increasingly popular as prices have dropped under $100 for small units.

The announcement is expected to be made by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, at a news conference attended by members of the drone industry.

Two sources who were informed of the plan said the administration will announce the formation of an independent advisory committee with the goal of creating the structure of a federal drone registry by December.

The expected initiative represents the administration’s effort to address the rising number of unauthorized drone sightings near airports and crowded public venues. The FAA has reported more than 650 unauthorized drone sightings so far this year, as of Aug. 9, compared with 238 for all of 2014. If sightings continue at that rate, the number would near 1,100 by the year end.

In the San Diego area, 19 drone encounters with aircraft were reported, most occurring near the San Diego, Carlsbad and Ramona airports as commercial, military and private aircraft were taking off or landing.

The growth in sightings, and forecasts for more than a million U.S. drone sales next year, have raised concerns about UAS colliding with commercial aircraft during landing or take-off, or being used as a weapon in a deliberate attack.

Officials say efforts to track down the owners of rogue drones have been frustrated in part by a 2012 congressional decision to bar the FAA from regulating recreational drones.

FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker told a House panel last week that the agency was considering setting up a registry with manufacturers to keep track of drone owners, commercial and recreational.

Like other federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon, FAA is also testing new technology that could be used to detect and track rogue drone flights that could pose a safety or security risk.

The sources said a new advisory and rule making committee, to be announced by administration officials next week, is expected to include representatives from the drone industry, the model aircraft community and airline unions.

Republicans and industry officials have blamed the FAA for the surge in rogue drone flights, saying the U.S. aviation regulatory agency failed to produce final regulations for commercial drone flights in time to meet a Sept. 30, 2015, congressional deadline.

Final drone regulations are now expected early in 2016.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.