Remember the huge announcement in December 2020, when the Federal Aviation Administration issued its final rule on Remote Identification for drones? We finally have a date for when those final Remote ID rules go into effect: April 21, 2021.
The new rules are actually a series of new rules extending beyond just remote identification for drones. Along with those rules comes an ‘Operations Over People rule’, rules around flying at night as well as new rules around taking the recurrent aeronautical knowledge test (you’ll no longer have to take an in-person test, in lieu of an online course). The FAA recurrent test for drone pilots set to go live during the first week of April.
Here’s what you need to know about the new rules, once they kick in next month:
Remote identification final rule: This rule requires that drones can be identified in flight, and that the location of their control stations or takeoff point can also be identified.
Note that your drone doesn’t need to be equipped with Remote ID as of April 21, 2021. It simply means that drone manufacturers now have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID. From there, you’ll have an additional year to start using drones with Remote ID — essentially meaning you have more than two years to upgrade or buy new drones so you’re compliant.
Operations over people rule: For pilots who fly under the FAA’s Part 107 (meaning you fly drones for commercial purposes), there’s new guidance around flying over people, where the ability to fly over people and over moving vehicles varies depending on the level of risk a small drone operation presents to people on the ground.
Basically drone operations are broken down into four categories based upon weight of the drone and estimated kinetic energy produced upon potential impact. In general, the heavier the drone, the stricter the restrictions.
Flying at night: Finally, operations at night are allowed under certain conditions. To be able to fly at night, you must pass the FAA’s updated initial knowledge test or complete the appropriate updated online training course, which will be available on April 6, 2021.
Until then, you cannot fly over people, over moving vehicles or at night unless you’ve obtained a waiver from the FAA.
Changes to the Part 107 recurrent test: The new rules also create some changes to the rule around taking the recurrent test for your Part 107 drone pilot’s license. There’s no longer a 24 calendar month requirement to complete a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test. Instead, you’ll have to complete an updated online recurrent training. Along with that rule is a requirement that remote pilots have their remote pilot certificate and identification in their physical possession when flying.
Check out our full rundown of the new Part 107 recurrent testing requirements here.
Who do the final Remote ID rules (and other FAA rules) apply to?
The final rule on Remote ID applies to all operators of drones that require FAA registration. That means if your drone weighs more than 0.55 lbs. (250 grams) and less than 55 lbs. (25 kg), you still have to register your drone (as per usual), but you’ll also need to comply with the Remote ID rules as of April 21, 2021.
We said it once but we’ll say it again (since it’s a frequently asked question). Your drone does not need to be equipped with Remote ID by April 21, 2021. That’s simply the date the rule goes into effective, and there’s an additional ~2 year, grace period of sorts for you to get your drones actually Remote-ID-compliant.
Read the entire text of the Remote ID rule (PDF) and Operations Over People Rule (PDF) by the FAA in the official Federal Register. The FAA has also released a hotline for the public to submit questions about the final Remote ID rules at 844-FLY-MY-UA.