On December 28, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveiled the final version of the anticipated rule for remote identification of drones. Additionally, the FAA released finalized rules that standardize situations in which drones can operate over people or at night without the need for waivers.

Industry stakeholders and the public provided extensive feedback to the FAA since the release of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for remote identification of drones (Remote ID) in December 2019. The final rule has several significant changes from the proposed rule. Most notably, the rule mandates use of broadcast technology to transmit information about the drone, rather than allowing drone manufacturers and operators to choose the best technological solution to meet remote identification requirements. That includes the use of a network or internet-based Remote ID solution, which was included in the proposed rules, but not adopted in the final rule. 

The Remote ID rule goes into effect for drone operators in September 2023, although anyone wishing to fly drones directly over people under that new rule will have to comply with the Remote ID requirements much sooner.

Skyward is a member of the FAA’s Remote ID Cohort, which the FAA chartered to develop technology requirements and Remote ID technology. Skyward has spoken extensively about our vision for Remote ID, as well as other potential drone regulations.

The FAA’s rule for remote identification of drones

Under the final rule, all drones that are required to register with the FAA must use Remote ID. The rule establishes three ways in which operators may comply with Remote ID requirements. Most commercially operated drones must broadcast Remote ID messages in a manner that is compatible with personal wireless devices. These broadcasts will most likely be sent over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals.

Remote ID messages must include: the drone’s serial number or an anonymous session ID; the drone’s position, altitude, and velocity; the position and altitude of the control station; emergency status; and time mark.

Only the FAA will be able to correlate the Remote ID information with specific identifying information. Authorized law enforcement and national security agencies can request such information from the FAA.

Note that the final Remote ID rule does not give the option to transmit Remote ID signals via the internet. For now, Remote ID will only be required to broadcast signals that can be received by wireless devices within range of the drone, most likely via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals. The FAA’s decision is shortsighted as it undercuts the goal of Universal Traffic Management (UTM), which numerous stakeholders, including the FAA and NASA, have been working on for years and which is widely acknowledged to be a necessary component to a drone industry operating at scale. Using network technology to transmit Remote ID would have been a key milestone toward UTM and would offer better privacy and cybersecurity protections than broadcast technology.

The rule provides additional standards enabling existing drones to be retrofitted with a Remote ID broadcast module. The rule also establishes FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs), which are FAA-designated locations where drones may fly without Remote ID. Whether built into the drone itself or added as an after-market module, the FAA must approve all Remote ID systems.

The rule is expected to be published in January 2021. All drones will need to comply with Remote Identification 30 months after that, approximately September 2023.

You can find more information in the FAA’s executive summary of the Remote ID rule or the rule’s full text.

The FAA’s rule for drone operations over people without a Part 107 waiver

The FAA’s goal with this rule is to enable safe and routine drone operations over people without the need for special permission from the FAA. The rule establishes four categories of drones, each primarily based on a drone’s potential to cause harm if it fell from the sky during flight. Most commercially operated drones will require an FAA-accepted means of compliance to mitigate that potential harm, as well as an FAA-accepted declaration of compliance.

For more detailed information, see the FAA’s executive summary of the operations over people rule or the rule’s full text. Skyward is able to help operators navigate the various categories and identify the best regulatory avenues and drone equipment to suit their concept of operations.

The FAA’s rule for drone operations at night without a Part 107 waiver

Under this rule, a drone operating at night must be equipped with proper anti-collision lights that can be seen for three statute miles. Additionally, drone pilot certification testing will be updated to include material on night flights. Currently licensed drone pilots must complete recurrent online training before flying night operations. The rule also establishes criteria for operating drones over moving vehicles without the need for a Part 107 waiver.

This rule is a good example of the FAA learning from thousands of successful waivers and incorporating those requirements into a common-sense rule. For more details, see the FAA’s executive summary of the operations at night rule or the rule’s full text.

Additional developments in drone regulations

The FAA also revised or added to a few other provisions of its Part 107 regulations.

The FAA updated its drone pilot recertification requirements. Currently licensed drone pilots will no longer need to take a recurrent knowledge test, but instead must take free online recurrent training. Additionally, the FAA has clarified the requirement that drone pilots must carry their remote pilot certificate, and to whom a pilot must present this certificate upon request. More information can be found in the FAA’s press release.

Keep an eye on the Skyward blog for a deeper dive into these regulations and Skyward’s response.

Skyward Part 107 Guide