A new rule issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) brings commercial drone use closer to becoming an everyday reality. The rule will allow drones to fly above people, and in certain conditions, fly at night.
FAA, a division of the US Department of Transportation, announced the rule change Monday. The rules come at a time when the unmanned aerial vehicles represent the fastest-growing segment in the entire transportation sector. There are currently more than 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots.
Under current rules, commercial drone pilots are only allowed to fly over head of their own employees, people under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle. A waiver could be obtained, but the new rules and registration simplify the process.
Remote ID-equipped Drones
The plan requires remote identification (Remote ID) of drones. FAA is anticipating Remote ID will help mitigate risks associated with expanded drone operations.
The above rules don’t immediately take effect, but it won’t be long. They become law 60 days after being published in the federal register in January 2021.
The Remote ID rule includes two compliance dates. Manufacturers will have 18 months to begin producing with Remote ID, with operators having an additional year to start using drones with Remote ID. “These final rules carefully address safety, security and privacy concerns while advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
Remote ID (PDF) is a major step toward the full integration of drones into the national airspace system. The system will identify drones in flight, as well as the location of their control stations. This information will be available to national security agencies and law enforcement partners, as well as “other officials charged with ensuring public safety.”
Airspace awareness reduces the risk of interference with other aircraft and people or property on the ground.
Flying Over People and at Night
Equipping drones with Remote ID technology builds on previous steps to integrate operations safely into the national airspace system. Part 107 of the federal aviation regulations currently prohibits covered drone operations over people and at night unless the operator obtains a waiver from the FAA. The new FAA regulations jointly provide increased flexibility to conduct certain small UAS without obtaining waiver.
“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”
The Remote ID rule applies to all operators of drones that require FAA registration. There are three ways to comply with the operational requirements:
- Operate a standard Remote ID drone that broadcasts identification and location information of the vehicle and control station;
- Operate a drone with a Remote ID broadcast module (may be a separate device attached to the drone) announcing identification, location, and take-off information; or
- Operate a drone without Remote ID but at specific FAA-recognized identification areas.
The Operations Over People and at Night rule applies to Part 107 operators. The ability to fly over people and moving vehicles varies depending on the level of risk presented to humans.
Additionally, this rule allows for operations at night under certain conditions.
Small drone operators must carry their remote pilot certificate and identification in their physical possession when operating, ready to present to authorities if needed. The class of authorities who may request these forms from a remote pilot has also grown.
The final rule replaces the requirement to complete a recurrent test every 24 calendar months with the requirement to complete updated recurrent training that includes operating at night in identified subject areas.