New FAA rules to come into force next year
Small drones will be allowed to fly over people, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced. This will be a significant step towards their use for commercial deliveries.
The FAA said it was introducing new rules that will address existing safety concerns: the drones will need to be fitted with special software to identify them from the ground.
The rules will take effect 60 days after publication in the federal register in January. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to start producing remotely identifiable drones, allowing them to be recognised, and operators will have an extra year to submit data to the FAA. There are other, more complex rules that allow drones to be used at night and in some cases to fly over people for larger aircraft.
“The new rules pave the way for further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety concerns,” said FAA administrator Steve Dixon. “They bring us closer to the day when we will see the use of drones more regularly, such as for parcel delivery.”
There are more than 1.7 million registered drones in the United States and 203,000 FAA-certified operators who can operate them.
The FAA has said that drones must be equipped with special lights to operate at night. Remote identification is required for all drones weighing 0.25kg or more, as well as those that will fly over people.
The new rules remove the requirement for drones to be connected to the internet to transmit location data. Instead, they will transmit remote identification messages via radio frequency broadcasting. Without this change, the use of drones in areas without internet access would not be possible.
The International Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems said remote identification would function as a “digital number plate for drones… that would allow for more sophisticated operations” and the use of drones at night and to fly over people “is an important step towards integrating drones into our national airspace”.