The Federal Aviation Administration’s Final Rule for Remote ID went into effect this week. That, alongside allowing operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions, also went into effect — all on Wednesday, April 21. The FAA recurrent test for drone pilots, which was announced under the umbrella of the new Final Rules for Remote ID, went live earlier this month.
“(These) rules are an important first step in safely and securely managing the growing use of drones in our airspace, though more work remains on the journey to full integration of UAS,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in a prepared statement. “The Department looks forward to working with stakeholders to ensure that our UAS policies keep pace with innovation, ensure the safety and security of our communities, and foster the economic competitiveness of our country.”
Those four big changes — Remote ID rules, rules around flying drones over people, rules around flying drones at night, and adjustments to the Part 107 recurrent testing process — were all announced in December 2020 but didn’t take effect until this month.
Here’s what you need to know about the new rules:
Final Rule for Remote ID
The new, final rule for Remote ID provides a structure for remotely identifying drones in flight and the location of their control stations. The intent is to reduce the risk of drones interfering with each other, other aircraft or posing a risk to people and property on the ground. All drones that require FAA registration are now also subject to Remote ID compliance.
Here’s a big relief to note before you panic that your drone might not yet be Remote ID-compliant: Your drone doesn’t actually need to be equipped with Remote ID as of this month. This week simply marks the period where drone manufacturers now have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID (so new drones will need to be Remote ID compliant in Fall 2022). From there, you’ll have an additional year to start using drones with Remote ID — essentially meaning you have until Fall 2023 to upgrade or buy new drones so you’re compliant.
Operations over people
If you’re flying drones for commercial purposes (that is, under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations), the new Operations Over People rule applies. Under the new rule that went into effect this week, there are now opportunities to legally fly over people and over moving vehicles. Whether or not you actually can varies depending on the level of risk (PDF) that your drone poses to people on the ground, based on its size.
Flying drones at night
Finally, you may be able to fly drones in the dark, thanks to the new rules around drone operations at night. You’ll now be able to fly at night under certain conditions, provided you complete certain training or pass knowledge tests.
That said, if you’re flying under a LAANC approval, you can’t fly at night quite yet. Currently, LAANC only allows for approval of daytime authorizations, but the FAA says the system will be expanded to allow night authorizations by fall 2021.
If you do need to fly at night AND under LAANC, then you can obtain night authorizations at or below the approved altitude in the UAS Facility Maps using two separate authorizations:
1. Daytime authorization
2. National Authorization: extends the duration of a daytime LAANC authorization to allow nighttime operations for the same date indicated on the daytime LAANC authorization
Adjustments to the Part 107 recurrent testing process
The requirement to complete an in-person, FAA recurrent test every two years has been replaced with a much simpler requirement: pilots must complete a free, online recurrent training course. That course went live on the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) website earlier this month for no cost, and it entails a series of mini quizzes, videos and text slides. There are well over 100 slides, and the course takes about one hour to go through (of course, depending on how fast you read).
“Drones can provide virtually limitless benefits, and these new rules will ensure these important operations can grow safely and securely,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in a prepared statement. “The FAA will continue to work closely with other Department of Transportation offices and stakeholders from across the drone community to take meaningful steps to integrate emerging technologies that safely support increased opportunities for more complex drone use.”