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FAA issues rules to expand the use of drones

The aerial vehicles may be flown over people and at night

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Photo (c) scanrail - Getty Images
If you found a drone under the Christmas tree last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has another gift for you. The agency has expanded the ways these aerial devices can be used.

The new rules, unveiled this week, address security issues by mandating that larger aerial vehicles have onboard remote identification technology. That will allow drones in the air to be identified from the ground.

The new rules also allow drones to be flown over people and at night. In the past, drones could only legally be flown over people who were part of the operation, inside a building, or in a parked vehicle.

While the new rules will apply to everyone who flies a drone, including hobbyists, it’s aimed at speeding up the deployment of drones for commercial purposes.

“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 FAA said Remote ID is a major step toward the full integration of drones into the national airspace system. It allows controllers to monitor drones in flight, as well as the location of their control stations.

Digital license plate

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said Remote ID will function as “a digital license plate for drones ... that will enable more complex operations” while operations at night and over people “are important steps.”

The Remote ID rule will apply to all drones that require FAA registration. There are three ways to comply with the operational requirements:

1. Operate a standard Remote ID drone that broadcasts identification and location information of the drone and control station;

2. Operate a drone with a Remote ID broadcast module (may be a separate device attached to the drone), which broadcasts identification, location, and take-off information; or

3. Operate a drone without Remote ID but at specific FAA-recognized identification areas.

The FAA says drones make up the fastest-growing segment in the entire transportation sector. There are currently over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots.

Having Remote ID on board will be required for all drones weighing 0.55 lb (0.25 kg) or more, but it’s required for smaller drones under certain circumstances like flights over open-air assemblies. The final rules take effect in 60 days.

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