FAA Ready to Lighten Up on Electronics

Josh WolfordTechnology

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By next year, you shouldn't have to power down all of your electronics when you board an airplane in the United States. As expected, the FAA is close to adopting new, relaxed rules for portable electronic devices on commercial flights.

As of now, all electronic devices (including ereaders, tablets, and phones) must be powered down prior to takeoff and on landing - even those in "airplane" mode. The rules have been around for a long time, but have become a point of contention for a more increasingly tech-dependent population over the last couple of years - especially considering the Federal Aviation Administration's refusal to budge on policies that are hotly contested in the scientific community and generally panned by flyers.

Here's what the FAA said earlier this year (and what they've said for the past few years as well):

"The technology for portable electronic devices (PEDs) has been around for many years and is still used in today’s electronics, but there are many uncertainties about the radio signals the devices give off. Even PEDs that do not intentionally transmit signals can emit unintentional radio energy. This energy may affect aircraft safety because the signals can occur at the same frequencies used by the plane’s highly sensitive communications, navigation, flight control and electronic equipment."

Despite these assertions, public sentiment against the bans and a strong push from some high-profile voices led the FAA to announce that they were at least going to consider easing up a bit on the restrictions for portable electronic devices.

"The FAA recognizes this is an area of intense consumer interest, so the agency has brought all the important stakeholders together to facilitate a discussion on this issue...The goal is to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft," said the organization in a June statement.

Now, The New York Times is reporting that the FAA is nearing a decision - one that will finally allow passengers to operate their electronic devices in a limited capacity at all times during flights. The new rules will let people use their ereaders, phones, and tablets to do things like watch videos, play games, and read books.

Although the debate over just how much interference commercial flights could see from PEDs is just that - still a debate - the FAA is expected to keep the ban on making phone calls, sending texts, and such during flight. In fact, that portion of the regulations was never really up for a change in the first place.

The exploratory panel will recommend the relaxed guidelines later this month and the FAA will likely make them official by next year.

Image via Brian Herzog, Flickr

Josh Wolford

Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer.

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