The FAA has released the final rule for Remote ID for Drones, along with a rule for operations on people and moving vehicles, and night operations. The long-awaited releases will clarify the details of Remote ID and allow stakeholders from the commercial and recreational drone community to prepare for implementation – while expanding the scope of commercial operations with clear rules governing operation over people. The full text of the Remote ID for Drones rule can be found here. the text of the Operations Over People rule here.
In the simplest case, the Remote ID for Drones (RID) would enable authorized persons to identify drones in the airspace and connect them to a pilot, much like a car license plate identifies a vehicle and the owner of that vehicle.
Summary of the final remote ID rule: No network based remote ID requirement
According to the FAA announcement:
The Remote ID rule applies to all drone operators that require FAA registration. There are three ways to meet the operational requirements:
- Operate a standard remote ID drone that sends identification and location information of the drone and the control station.
- Operate a drone with a remote ID broadcast module (possibly a separate device attached to the drone) that broadcasts identification, location and launch information. or
- Operate a drone without Remote ID, but in certain FAA-approved identification areas.
What is not included in the current rule is a requirement for the network-based remote ID.
“In response to the NPRM, the FAA received significant feedback on the network requirements, identifying both public opposition and technical challenges in implementing the network requirements,” states the final rule. “The FAA did not anticipate or consider many of these challenges when proposing the use of the network solution and the USS framework. After careful consideration of these challenges, informed by public comments, the FAA decided to remove the requirement in this rule drafting to transmit remote identification messages to a remote identity USS over an Internet connection. “
“These final rules carefully take into account security and privacy concerns while promoting opportunities for innovation and the use of drone technology,” said US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
Remote ID: From the proposed rule creation to the final rule
In December 2019, the FAA published the original proposal – the Proposed Rule-Making Notice (NPRM). In the three months allowed, the FAA received more than 50,000 comments. (For more information on the NPRM, see this article.) While some stakeholders welcomed the rule, others said that the rule required “substantial changes” to make the rule less burdensome.
The NPRM text can be found here. Details affect many players in the drone industry, from recreational and commercial pilots to drone manufacturers and law enforcement agencies.
In May 2020, the FAA decided to work on the technology requirements concurrently with evaluating the comments and finalizing the rule. At that time, the FAA announced 8 partners that they would work with the FAA to create “a framework for technological requirements for future providers of remote ID technology”. The 8 selected companies were: Airbus, AirMap, Amazon, Intel, One Sky, Skyward, T-Mobile and Wing.
Now the FAA has kept its promise to be released for both Remote ID and Ops Over People before the end of the year.
Operations over people (and moving vehicles) and night operations
If Remote ID is not in the way, operations over people and operations at night can also progress. The Ops Over People rule divides eligible aircraft into four categories as indicated below.
Category 1, Category 2, Category 3 and Category 4 authorization for operations on persons
The final rule defines four new categories of small unmanned aerial vehicles for routine operation over people: Category 1, Category 2, Category 3 and Category 4. The final rule also allows routine operation over moving vehicles.
- Category 1 small unmanned aerial vehicles must weigh less than 0.55, including all parts on board or otherwise attached, and must not contain any exposed rotating parts that could injure human skin. No FAA accepted means of conformity (MOC) or declarations of conformity (DOC) required.
- Category 2 small unmanned aerial vehicles shall not cause injury to a human being equal to or greater than the severity of the injury caused by the transfer of 11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object. They must not contain any exposed rotating aircraft parts which could injure human skin if they hit a person and which do not contain any safety defects. Requires FAA accepted means of conformity and FAA accepted declaration of conformity.
- Small Category 3 unmanned aerial vehicles shall not cause injury to a human equal to or greater than the severity of the injury caused by the transfer of 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object. They must not contain any exposed rotating aircraft parts which could injure human skin if they hit a person and which do not contain any safety defects. Requires FAA accepted means of conformity and FAA accepted declaration of conformity.
- Category 4 small unmanned aircraft must have a Certificate of Airworthiness in accordance with Part 21 of the FAA regulations. Must be operated in accordance with the operating restrictions specified in the approved flight manual or otherwise set by the administrator. The operating restrictions must not prohibit operation above people. Maintenance, preventive maintenance, changes or inspections must be performed according to the specific requirements in the final rule.
Ops over People is a significant step forward in advanced operations such as the delivery of drones that are no longer practical in urban areas without the ability to fly over people and move vehicles. Night ops are permitted for certified operators with appropriate lighting.
Drone manufacturers and pilots have some time to prepare for the implementation of the new rules, which will come into effect 60 days after publication in the federal register. The drone manufacturers then have 18 months to produce drones with remote ID technology. The operators then have 1 year to use drones with remote ID.
ANRA Technologies is one of the companies that has dealt intensively with the testing and evaluation of components of UTM systems (Unmanned Traffic Management). Amit Ganjoo, CEO of ANRA, says it will take some time for the drone industry to fully evaluate the rule and see how the final version of the remote ID for drones differs from the version that was presented for comment in December 2019 . “This is a step in the right direction,” says Ganjoo. “We need to take the time to process this information, unpack the details and see what it contains for everyone involved. However, now we can understand the impact Remote ID for drones will have on the drone industry.”
“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “They bring us closer to the day when drone operations like delivering packages are becoming more routine.”
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has written over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing on the drone industry, email Miriam.
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