On December 28, 2020 the FAA announced new rules for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or drones) that will require Remote Identification and, in certain circumstances, allow flight over people and at night. The rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur in January 2021.
Remote ID is the ability of a drone to provide identification and location information while in flight. The rule requires most drones operating in US airspace to broadcast information about the drone’s identity, location, altitude, control station and take-off location. If you are required to register your drone, you will be required to comply with the rule.
There are three ways to meet the remote ID requirements:
- operate a standard remote ID drone that has built in broadcast capability
- operate a drone with a remote ID broadcast module installed on it
- operate a drone without remote ID only in an FAA recognized identification area (FRIA)
Drone manufacturers must comply with the rule’s requirements of producing drones with remote ID capability 18 months after the rule’s effective date. Drone pilots must meet the operating requirements of part 89 by flying a standard remote ID drone or equipping an existing drone with a broadcast module 30 months after the rule’s effective date.
For more information about the FAA’s remote ID rule please visit the FAA remote ID website.
Flying Over People/Flying at Night
The new rule regarding flying over people and routine operations at night is intended to eliminate the need for individual part 107 certificate of waivers for typical operations for those with a remote pilot certificate.
The ability to fly over people depends on the level of risk to those on the ground and is presented in 4 categories:
- Category 1: small UAS are permitted to operate over people so long as they weigh .55 pounds or less, including all attachments, and contain no exposed rotating parts. Compliance with remote ID is required for sustained flights over open-air assemblies.
- Category 2: applies UAS weighing more than .55 pounds without an airworthiness certificate under part 21. The pilot must be able to demonstrate that injuries to a human being are within the rule’s limitations should an impact take place during a flight. The UAS must not contain any exposed rotating parts. Compliance with remote ID is required for sustained flights over open-air assemblies.
- Category 3: UAS in this category are subject to stricter safety requirements in regard to human injuries than category 2 and must not contain any exposed rotating parts. Compliance with remote ID is required for sustained flights over open-air assemblies and all those in the assembly site must be notified that a UAS may fly over them.
- Category 4: any UAS with an airworthiness certificate under part 21 may operate over people so log as there are no limitations in the flight manual. Compliance with remote ID is required for sustained flights over open-air assemblies.
Night operations are allowed so long as the remote pilot in command has completed an updated initial knowledge test or online recurrent training and the UAS has lighted anti-collision lighting that is visible for at least 3 statute miles and a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision.
For more information about the FAA’s rule about flying over people and at night please visit the FAA website.