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Unpacking the New FAA Regulations

What the New Rules Mean and How They Will Affect the Drone Industry

Sat Jan 09 2021 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

We’ve seen several FAA announcements over the past few weeks, and this has led a number of you to ask us: what’s changed? Let’s break down what we know and the impact of these announcements, including:

  • Operations at Night
  • Operations over People
  • Online Recertification for part 107
  • Remote ID

At the DroneDeploy Conference this year, we discussed the forthcoming rules to support Remote ID with representatives from the Commercial Drone Alliance, the FAA, and Airbus UTM. Much of the FAA’s work with drones these past few years has been in service of opening up the skies to productive, commercial drone flights, and ultimately to enable fully autonomous commercial flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) – all without a waiver.

DroneDeploy customers have often benefited from this work, enabling them to scale massive drone operations safely. Part 107 remote pilot certification accelerated commercial drone adoption, while LAANC has opened up drone flight operations near airports.

We’ve worked closely with the team at Airbus UTM on this subject, and if you’d like more detail on remote ID, head over to Joe Polastre’s blog post on this topic.

Drone Operations at Night

On Dec 28, The FAA proposed a new rule regarding operations at night and over people. The executive summary is available here. This rule will invalidate existing nighttime waivers, so see the recertification section for more details on that.

In short, Remote Pilots can recertify to fly at night via an updated recurrent online training, and equip their drone with flashing anti-collision lights visible for 3 statute miles.

Drone Operations over People

In the same rule comes a description of four eligible categories of drones that are described for operations over people. The drones undertaking these types of operations will also be required to meet the new Remote ID rules. More information on categories and these kinds of operations are available in the executive summary, or in the full documentation.

Recertification for Part 107 is Now Online – and Free!

Covid restrictions have made recertification particularly problematic for pilots whose 24-month certification has expired. One of the most helpful changes in the final rule is to allow the remote pilot to extend their certification simply by undertaking updated recurrent online training.

This new online training will include new subject areas - enabling operations at night. The recurrent online training will be offered free of charge to remote pilots - another welcome change.

The earliest that the updated online testing and recurrent training required to conduct night operations will be available 45 days after publication of this rule in the federal register.

NOTE: If you are currently flying with a Part 107 waiver for nighttime operations, you will need to undertake this training within 120 days of publication, giving you a 75-day window to complete the updated testing or training.

Broadcast Remote ID Requirements

An important piece to call out here: drone pilots will not be subject to Remote ID regulations until earliest August 2023.

The final rule states that Remote ID is a technology to “address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns regarding the further integration of these aircraft into the airspace of the United States.”

Therefore, the goal of Remote ID is to assuage security concerns to open up our skies by making it simple for law enforcement and national security services to identify bad actors. Congress required the FAA to work on this project as part of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Bill.

As published in the final rule, compliance with Remote ID requires a simple broadcast-based system from a compliant drone. The drone itself will need to broadcast its position and the position of the ground station operator. In fact, existing drones will likely be compliant with this rule in the future through a routine firmware upgrade or a cheap retrofit device.

The significant change (since the draft rule was published) is that the more complex “Network Remote ID” requirement has been dropped. Previously, the expectation was that every pilot would have subscribed to an internet-based subscription service to report their position. Also removed were requirements for flights in offline locations, which appeared to create an additional administrative burden on pilots.

We may see some form of network-based identification return as an option in the future, and may use this for BVLOS operational safety or by drone delivery fleets who want to keep their routes and destinations confidential.

Overall the changes introduced by this final rule on Remote ID are likely to be beneficial to DroneDeploy customers, and simple to operationalize. The move to online training is great news for experienced remote pilots seeking to recertify. We look forward to rapid innovation from drone manufacturers to retrofit or upgrade their drones to meet Remote ID requirements, and to the FAA extending rulemaking to BVLOS operations.

If you're interested in learning more about what's new in the drone world, download our 2021 State of the Drone Industry Report.


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