FAA and DOT Announce New Drone Rules for Flights Over People

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Small drones will be allowed to fly over people and at night in certain conditions, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said. The new rules will require Remote Identification (Remote ID) of drones. The rules, released December 28, come at a time when drones represent the fastest-growing segment in the entire transportation sector – with currently over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots, according to Drone Life.

“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 Chao.

The FAA said its long-awaited rules will address security concerns by requiring remote identification technology in most cases to enable their identification from the ground. Previously, small drone operations over people were limited to operations over people who were directly participating in the operation, located under a covered structure, or inside a stationary vehicle – unless operators had obtained a waiver from the FAA, noted Reuters.  

Remote ID provides identification of drones in flight as well as the location of their control stations, providing information to national security agencies and law enforcement partners, and other officials charged with ensuring public safety. Airspace awareness reduces the risk of drone interference with other aircraft and people and property on the ground, according to the FAA. Remote ID is required for drones weighing 0.55 lb (0.25 kg) or more, but is required for smaller drones under certain circumstances like flights over open-air assemblies.

The new FAA regulations jointly provide increased flexibility to conduct certain small drones without obtaining a 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 rules will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register in January. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID, and operators will have an additional year to provide Remote ID.

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