The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced final rules for unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones. The new rules will require Remote Identification (Remote ID) of drones and allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions.
Remote ID effectively works as a kind of digital license plate for unmanned aircraft, broadcasting identifying details, including the location of the craft.
“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 (PDF) 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 drone and control station;
- Operate a drone with a Remote ID broadcast module (which may be a separate device attached to the drone), which broadcasts 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 commercial drone pilots operating drones weighing less than 50 pounds. The ability to fly over people and moving vehicles varies depending on the level of risk a small drone operation presents to people on the ground.
Operations are permitted based on four categories, which can be found in the executive summary accompanying the rule. Additionally, this rule allows for operations at night under certain conditions.
According to an FAA press release:
The final rule requires that small drone operators have their remote pilot certificate and identification in their physical possession when operating, ready to present to authorities if needed. This rule also expands the class of authorities who may request these forms from a remote pilot. 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.
In Maryland, local governments are preempted from regulating drones. Last year, a report from a statewide workgroup on drone use in Maryland described the challenges drones create for local law enforcement and the need for clarification of rules and authorities.
According to the FAA’s Operations Over People and at Night Rule:
States and municipalities may use their police powers, such as those relating to land use, zoning, privacy, anti-voyeurism, trespass, and law enforcement operations, to address small UAS operations in the community. Through their land use and zoning power, municipalities have authority to determine the placement of aircraft takeoff and landing areas within the community.
However, municipalities do not have authority to enact operational restrictions on aviation safety or the efficiency of the navigable airspace, including regulation of unmanned aircraft flight altitude, flight paths or operational bans.
Both rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The Remote ID rule includes two compliance dates. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID, with operators having an additional year to start using drones with Remote ID.