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US to allow drones to fly over people and at night

Drones (Pete/Flickr)
December 30, 2020

Drones will soon be allowed to fly over people and at night under certain conditions, according to new rules the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Monday.

The FAA’s latest rules for Unmanned Aircraft, often called drones, also require Remote Identification of the aircraft in an effort to mitigate risks linked to expanding drone operations.

According to an FAA press release, drones “represent the fastest-growing segment in the entire transportation sector – with currently over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots.”

The new rules are designed to support technological and operational changes and developments.

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

The FAA said supplying drones with Remote ID is part of a broader effort to “integrate operations safely into the national airspace system.” The new regulations allow more flexibility for pilots to safely operate their drone over people and at night without requiring a waiver from the FAA.  

“Remote ID is a major step toward the full integration of drones into the national airspace system,” the statement read. “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.”

The administration also noted that airspace awareness is critical in reducing the risk of drones interfering with other aircraft, as well as people and property.

“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.”

Remote ID requirements apply to any drone operators who require FAA registration.

The ability to operate a drone over people and moving vehicles will depend on the level of risk involved, separated into four categories that include weight, size and necessary certificates.

The updated regulations also include a requirement that operators have their remote pilot certifications and identification on their physical person while operating the aircraft.

The new rules are set to become effective 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Drone makers will be given 18 months to produce drones with Remote ID and operators will have another year to begin operating drones with Remote ID.