New FAA Proposal Drone Pilots Should Know About

By Steve Cummings • February 19th, 2020
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In case you were partying on December 31 and failed to notice your government at work…there’s a new document out for comment:

14 CFR Parts 1, 47, 48, 89, 91, and 107
[Docket No.: FAA–2019–1100; Notice No. 20–01]
RIN 2120–AL31
Remote Identification of Unmanned
Aircraft Systems

In summary, this will require all drones, regardless of whether they are used for recreational or commercial purposes, to comply with the new regulations unless they weigh 250 grams (0.55 pounds) or less, including any payload.

Main features of the new regulations for operators:

Each drone will need to be registered individually – no more “fleet” registrations allowed – and require specifically defined serial number formats and ownership documentation, including phone numbers for each drone.

Each drone will have Standard, Limited or Without Remote Identification Ability classification. Standard means that a drone (UAS) can both broadcast FAA required information, including real-time location data and operator’s name from the drone from takeoff to landing and it must connect to the internet to transmit FAA required information to a Remote ID Service Supplier (USS).
Limited means that the drone can’t hook up to the internet. It will still have to continuously broadcast required information and must be designed to not operate when more than 400’ from the controller.

Those Without Remote Identification Ability must always be flown within the operator’s line-of-sight and then only at specific locations that the FAA designates these may operate. I’ve already seen some commentary that there will be very few of these facilities – they must be requested by an organization recognized by the FAA and, after 12 months, no further applications for these areas will be accepted by the FAA.

Broadcasting from the drone itself is expected to be used to prevent drones from crashing into each other while mine is collecting survey data and yours is delivering pizza.
Connecting to the internet and hooking to a Remote ID Service Provider (USS) will “nationalize” your drone, allowing the FAA, airports, and law enforcement to know about every drone in the air at any time and who is operating it. There is no caveat for recreational flyers – your drone must also comply.

Those of us flying under Part 107 will see tests change as these new requirements become FAA regulations.

I’m of at least two minds about this. On one hand, the Wild West of the Drone is dead – the only ways you can fly a Without Remote ID drone is to fly it at a very select location or to fly a drone weighing less than 250 grams, including payload. This just shreds the large libertarian swath of my character. On the other hand, I don’t like drones being used to commit crimes or worse.

On my amazingly convenient and useful third hand, I’ve determined my costs of flying have just increased substantially. Within three years of the proposal becoming regulation, I will have to retrofit my drone with the ability to hook to the internet and to broadcast continuous location data or I will have to buy a new drone. Regardless of how cheaply I can make this happen, I will have to subscribe to a USS, tasked with providing the powers that be with my drone’s every movement.

How much will this stuff cost? I don’t think we can even determine it yet although the FAA has developed cost estimates.

Forget to pay your USS subscription? From the document:

If the internet is available, but the UAS cannot connect to a Remote ID USS, the UAS would be designed such that it could not take off.

Yikes! I envision myself standing there a very long time trying to figure out why my drone won’t start – changing batteries and turning the controller on and off a hundred times while continuously swearing loudly.

Do we want to be able to fly at night? Or over crowds? Or Beyond the Visible Line-Of-Sight (BVLOS)?

That’s the trade-off. We get increased safety, security (national) and some relaxation of some existing UAS restrictions while sacrificing our freedom to fly, or at least our anonymity – and, as usual, we pay the bills.

The comment period ends March 2, 2020. Download the document here: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-12-31/pdf/2019-28100.pdf

My prediction: We’ll see a lot more drones like the Mavic Mini – 249 grams with a 12-megapixel camera aboard – coming to market.

– Steve

Steve Cummings
Carlson Software
BIM/Parametric Design Specialist

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