New FAA rule requires Remote ID for drones

The FAA today announced that it will be issuing two new rules for drone pilots in the U.S. The first is the implementation of a long-awaited Remote ID. The system effectively works as a kind of digital license plate for unmanned aircraft, broadcasting identifying details, including the location of the craft.

The full text of the finalized new rule can be found here. In short, drone operators will have one of three methods for complying:

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.

While some drone operators are likely to be put off by additional regulations, their arrival is understandable given the sheer volume and speed of drone adoption. The FAA says that more than 1.7 million drones have been registered in the U.S., along with around 203,000 certifications for drone pilots. Those numbers will likely only snowball as more drones are deployed for commercial purposes.

Notably, the FAA sees the new rules as a method for accelerating drone deliveries in the U.S. “The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a release tied to the news. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

Also new is the “Operations Over People and at Night” rule, which, as the name implies, regulates both the ability to fly over people and fly at night. The rule features a number of different qualifications for compliance, including weighing less than 0.55 pounds to fly overhead.

According to the rule, “small unmanned aircraft must not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects.”

In order to fly at night, drones need to sport operational anti-collision lights that can been see for three miles. The rules are set to be officially published next month, officially becoming effective 60 days later. Drone makers will have a year-and-a-half to begin adding Remote ID to their devices. In August, the FAA granted Amazon permission for delivery trials.