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New drone rules could be troublesome for some owners

New rules mean that from 2023 anyone with a drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds (that’s most consumer drones on the market today) will have to ensure their flying machine is fitted with Remote ID technology — a kind of “digital license plate” — so the authorities can see the location and details of both the pilot and their drone.

The new measures, unveiled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday, December 28, will also allow drones to be flown over people and at night, though extra training will be required beforehand.

Remote ID

Drone makers will be given 18 months to start incorporating Remote ID into their flying machines, while owners will have a further 12 months to register their Remote ID.

According to the FAA, owners will be able to comply with the Remote ID rule in one of three ways. They can:

  • 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 (this may be a separate device attached to the drone), which broadcasts identification, location, and take-off information
  • Operate a drone without Remote ID but at specific FAA-recognized identification area

As you’ll have noticed, for those without a Remote ID drone, this is likely to involve financial outlay for the broadcast module. If this isn’t possible, the drone owner will only be allowed to fly their machine in designated areas that are yet to be established.

More flight freedom

Allowing drones to fly over people and at night is certain to be welcomed by companies keen to launch drone delivery services.

However, although Amazon, Google, and others have been testing limited drone delivery services in recent years, the FAA wants a reliable traffic control system in place before allowing large-scale services using autonomous drones.

Still, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson sounded a positive note about the latest changes, saying, “The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns. They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

The new rules will be published in the federal register in January 2021 and come into effect 60 days later.

The FAA noted how drones now represent the fastest-growing segment in the entire U.S. transportation sector, with more than 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots to date. While the vast majority of drone owners fly their machines responsibly, a small number of people continue to fall foul of the law by flying them into restricted areas such as airports and prisons — one of the factors prompting the new rules announced this week.

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Trevor Mogg
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