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FAA publishes remote ID, flights-over-people rules – achieves broad industry support

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has today announced final rules for drones covering Remote Identification (Remote ID) and flights over people and at night under certain conditions.

“These final rules carefully address safety, security and privacy concerns while advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

According to a press release: “Remote ID (PDF) is a major step toward the full integration of drones into the national airspace system. Remote ID provides identification of drones in flight as well as the location of their control stations, providing crucial information to our national security agencies and law enforcement partners, and other officials charged with ensuring public safety. Airspace awareness reduces the risk of drone interference with other aircraft and people and property on the ground. Equipping drones with Remote ID technology builds on previous steps taken by the FAA and the drone industry to integrate operations safely into the national airspace system. Part 107 of the federal aviation regulations currently prohibits covered drone operations over people and at night unless the operator obtains a waiver from the FAA. The new FAA regulations jointly provide increased flexibility to conduct certain small UAS without obtaining waiver.”

“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

The Remote ID rule (PDF) applies to all operators of drones that require FAA registration. There are three ways to comply with the operational requirements:

  • Operate a standard Remote ID drone that broadcasts identification and location information of the drone and control station;
  • 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
  • Operate a drone without Remote ID but at specific FAA-recognized identification areas.

“The Operations Over People and at Night rule (PDF) applies to Part 107 operators,” says the press rrelease. “The ability to fly over people and moving vehicles varies depending on the level of risk a small drone operation presents to people on the ground. Operations are permitted based on four categories, which can be found in the executive summary (PDF) accompanying the rule. Additionally, this rule allows for operations at night under certain conditions.

The final rule requires that small drone operators have their remote pilot certificate and identification in their physical possession when operating, ready to present to authorities if needed. This rule also expands the class of authorities who may request these forms from a remote pilot. The final rule replaces the requirement to complete a recurrent test every 24 calendar months with the requirement to complete updated recurrent training that includes operating at night in identified subject areas.

Both rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The Remote ID rule includes two compliance dates. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID, with operators having an additional year to start using drones with Remote ID.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has welcomed the publications. “AUVSI welcomes the progress made with the delivery of these final rules,” said AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne. “Remote ID will enable more complex UAS operations, which will have additional untold benefits for American society. Operations over people, and at night, are important steps towards enabling integration of drones into our national airspace. We look forward to reviewing these rules and working with the FAA on implementation.”

“AUVSI and its members have been consistently calling for federal regulations regarding advanced UAS operations, especially Remote ID,” said an AUVSI press statement. “The rules released today are critical steps towards future UAS rulemakings to enable more complex operations, including Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for drone delivery, public safety operations, and infrastructure inspection. Remote ID is also instrumental to the development of a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system that works alongside existing air traffic control system for manned aircraft.”

Meanwhile, according to Tyler Dobbs, Director of Government Affairs at the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA): “The final remote ID rule prioritizes the safety and security of the national airspace, while also accommodating the longstanding, safe hobby of flying model aircraft…The final rule allows UAS without remote identification to be operated within FAA-Recognized Identification Areas. This option for meeting remote identification requirements has been included in the final rule as a long-term solution. AMA maintains nearly 2,400 fixed flying sites across the country where our members have flown safely and responsibly for decades. All unmanned aircraft at these locations are flown within visual line of sight of the operator, making it easy to ensure safety and identify the operator.

“The final rule also includes a sensible solution for operating outside of FAA-Recognized Identification Areas with the use of remote identification broadcast modules. This option eliminates the internet connectivity requirement that was included in the proposed rule and allows for retrofitting existing model aircraft.  We are pleased the FAA reversed the proposal to require model aircraft owners to register each of their model aircraft separately. Now, unmanned aircraft operators flying under the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations can continue to simply register per individual with the FAA.”

However, the publication of the rules has drawn criticism from other quarters. Delivery company Wing (https://www.unmannedairspace.info/latest-news-and-information/new-faa-remote-id-rules-should-include-internet-connection-wing/) has suggested that the FAA should have included an internet connection service in the remote ID proposals. And the recently-launched Drone Services Providers Alliance (formed at the start of December 2020) although broadly supporting the move has other concerns (see https://dspalliance.org/remote-identification-a-good-start/).

“The Drone Service Providers Alliance calls the Remote ID (RID) rule as a great start with some concerns. We are pleased that the FAA took to heart many of the comments submitted by those in the drone community and industry. We are especially pleased that the FAA eliminated the network requirement, eliminated the limited category, and exempted drones under 0.55 pounds that don’t require registration. However, the DSPA’s main concerns surround two issues.

“First, the rule retains the requirement for providing pilot or take off location in a public manner. Many in the drone community are rightfully concerned after being confronted by angry individuals or having their drones shot out of the sky. The FAA must state, unequivocally, that those who harass or injure remote pilots or who destroy a UAS will be prosecuted and must work to ensure that the US Department of Justice and US Attorney’s Offices actively follow up on any incidents. These incidents must be treated with the gravity that they deserve. We ask that the FAA propose a rulemaking that addresses destruction of UAS and interference with a RPIC.

“Second, we are disappointed that the FAA dismissed the “notify and fly” proposal put forth by Kittyhawk. The rule as published will negatively impact compliance rates as many people in the FPV community will likely opt to ignore the RID rules regarding both equipage and FRIAs.  First, the addition of requiring take off location necessitates the addition of a GPS to any module. This both increases weight and costs to platforms that are driven by grams. Further, most FPV pilots seek areas that are close to where they live and are unlikely to travel to FRIAs.  In fact, most are likely to just fly around their houses. We suggest that the FAA reconsider in the next iteration of Remote ID of allowing a notify and fly method as it would satisfy the public safety need of knowing who is flying and where.”

The new remote ID rules: the main points

Under the final rule, all drones required to register must remotely identify, and operators have three options (described below) to satisfy this requirement. For drones (unmanned aircraft or UA) weighing 0.55 lbs or less, remote identification is only required if the UA is operated under rules that require registration, such as part 107. Operational rules take effect 30 months after the effective date of the rule.

Standard Remote ID Unmanned Aircraft:

  • Broadcasts remote ID messages directly from the UA via radio frequency broadcast (likely Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology), and broadcast will be compatible with existing personal wireless devices.
  • Standard Remote ID message includes: UA ID (serial number of UA or session ID); latitude/longitude, altitude, and velocity of UA; latitude/longitude and altitude of Control Station; emergency status; and time mark.
  • Remote ID message will be available to most personal wireless devices within range of the broadcast; however, correlating the serial number or session ID with the registration database will be limited to the FAA and can be made available to authorized law enforcement and national security personnel upon request.
  • Range of the remote ID broadcast may vary, as each UA must be designed to maximize the range at which the broadcast can be received.

UA w/ Remote ID Broadcast Module:

  • Broadcast Module may be a separate device that is attached to an unmanned aircraft, or a feature built into the aircraft.
  • Enables retrofit for existing UA, and Broadcast Module serial number must be entered into the registration record for the unmanned aircraft.
  • Broadcast Module Remote ID message includes: serial number of the module; latitude/longitude, altitude, and velocity of UA; latitude/longitude and altitude of the take off location, and time mark.
  • UA remotely identifying with a Broadcast Module must be operated within visual line of sight at all times.
  • Broadcast Module to broadcast via radio frequency (likely Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology).
  • Compatibility with personal wireless devices and range of the Remote ID Broadcast Module message similar to Standard Remote ID UA (see above).

FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA):

  • Geographic areas recognized by the FAA where unmanned aircraft not equipped with Remote ID are allowed to fly.
  • Organizations eligible to apply for establishment of a FRIA include: community-based organizations recognized by the Administrator, primary and secondary educational institutions, trade schools, colleges, and universities.
  • Must operate within visual line of sight and only within the boundaries of a FRIA.
  • The FAA will begin accepting applications for FRIAs 18 months after the effective date of the rule, and applications may be submitted at any time after that.
  • FRIA authorizations will be valid for 48 months, may be renewed, and may be terminated by the FAA for safety or security reasons.

 

 

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