New USA drone rules go into effect

Washington, USA – The new unmanned aerial systems regulations in the USA – which were finalised at the end of last year – went into effect yesterday, April 21, 2021.

Called the Final Rule, the regulations are mainly directed at remote identification for drones; flights over people for smaller drones; as well as night flights.

“Today’s 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 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS),” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. “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.”

The Remote Identification (Remote ID) rule provides for identifying drones in flight and the location of their control stations, reducing the risk of them interfering with other aircraft or posing a risk to people and property on the ground. according to the Federal Aviation Administration, Remote ID is crucial for things like national security and for law enforcement partners and other agencies charged with ensuring public safety.

However, there are drone operators were are not comfortable with the part of the Remote ID rule that requires drones to transmit their location information via radio frequency broadcast, instead of using the internet. Wing, the drone subsidiary of Alphabet, were worried about the privacy issues this particular section of the rule posed.

“Unfortunately, the final rule,” wrote Wing of the new drone regulations, “unlike existing international standards, does not allow the use of equally effective network remote ID, and requires all UAS, no matter the use case, to use “broadcast” RID.

“This approach creates barriers to compliance and will have unintended negative privacy impacts for businesses and consumers. Unlike traditional aircraft flying between known airports, commercial drones fly closer to communities and between businesses and homes. While an observer tracking an airplane can’t infer much about the individuals or cargo onboard, an observer tracking a drone can infer sensitive information about specific users, including where they visit, spend time, and live and where customers receive packages from and when.

“American communities would not accept this type of surveillance of their deliveries or taxi trips on the road. They should not accept it in the sky. Over the next eighteen months (by which time drone operators are required to have complied with remote ID regulations), we urge the FAA to expand the pathways by which an operator can comply with the FAA’s remote ID requirements, enabling compliance through broadcast or network technologies.”

According to Brendan Schulman, the VP for Policy and Legal Affairs at DJI, there is no need for drone owners and operators to panic yet with the new rule’s commencement date kicking in.

Brendan Schulman

“The deadline for new products that are designed with Remote ID functionality to perform Remote ID will be October 2022,” Schulman says. “At that point, you can expect drones to be available on the market that have Remote ID built in. The deadline for all drones to transmit Remote ID signals during flight is one year later, in October 2023.”

But there are exceptions to the rule though. Recreational drones that weigh less than 0.55 pounds (250 grams), or are flown in special areas designated by the FAA, do not have to comply with the new rule.

“This careful phase-in period gives time for the drone industry to develop standards for the Remote ID radio broadcast, and for the FAA to confirm that these methods comply with the rules,” Schulman explained. “Existing drones won’t have to transmit Remote ID signals until October 2023. We anticipate many of the most commonly used DJI drones will be able to comply by then through a free software update.

“DJI’s newest drones are being designed and built with these future Remote ID requirements in mind. DJI will provide more information about how to comply with the rules as the mandate gets closer, but in the meantime, keep buying and flying drones the same way you always have.”

Meanwhile, the Operations Over People rule applies to pilots who fly under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Under this rule, the ability to fly over people and over moving vehicles varies depending on the level of risk a small drone poses to people on the ground.

Additionally, the final rule allows operations at night under certain conditions, provided pilots complete specialist training or pass knowledge tests.

“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. “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.”

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