MIAMI – The US FAA announced in a December 28 press release two highly anticipated new regulations governing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones.
The UAS sector is the fastest growing in the entire transportation network, with over 203,000 remote Pilots certified by the FAA and 1.7m registered drones. Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) governs this sector.
Mainly, the new rules will require remote identification of all unmanned aircraft, as well as allow drones to operate over people and at night. US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao stated that “These final rules carefully address safety, security and privacy concerns while advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology.”
The requirement for UAS to be equipped with remote identification (remote ID) is a crucial step towards remote aircraft being integrated into the national airspace system. Remote ID on a drone will essentially act like a transponder on a manned aircraft, and provide identification and location information of the drone and their control stations.
The increased situational awareness that will be brought about by remote ID will aid in mitigating the risk of collision between UAS and other aircraft, as well as ground based obstacles, including people. The FAA has outlined three options for remote ID compliance for UAS operators in the press release:
“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.”
Two separate compliance deadlines were given for when the remote ID rule goes into effect. UAS manufacturers will have 18 months to begin production on drones equipped with remote ID. UAS operators will have an additional 12 months to begin flying drones equipped with remote ID.
Flying Over People and at Night
Currently, FAR§107 does not allow drone operations at night, or over people without obtaining a special waiver from the FAA. The new rule concerning operations at night and over people will loosen the requirement to permit certain small UAS to operate over people and at night without obtaining a waiver.
The permitted operations are based off of four different categories that were broken down in an executive summary released by the FAA in tandem with the press release.
At base level however, any drones that will be allowed to operate at night and over people must be equipped with lights, and cannot have any components that would cut skin.
The Future for Unmanned Aircraft Systems
For a while now, the development of the UAS sector has been pointing towards the implementation of drones to the private sector. The use of drones in the courier industry has been of particular interest.
This past August, eCommerce heavyweight Amazon was awarded approval to use UAS to deliver packages by the FAA. The same approval has been given to the United Parcel Service (UPS). FAA Administrator Steve Dickinson alluded to this very concept in a statement, saying that the new rules “get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”
Both of the new regulations are expected to to go into effect 60 days after their publication in the Federal Register. With the regulations in place, it will now be interesting to see how, in the near future, UAS operations might affect air cargo, airlines and the airspace as a whole.
Featured image: Amazon