The FAA finally defines the rules for piloting small drones

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After months of uncertainty, businesses and hobbyists alike finally have a set of drone guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration. Final rules are a step back from Some suggested limitations, As it would allow over-crowd flights and some night operations. But all drones weighing more than 0.25 kg (0.55 lb) will need a unique remote ID, as will small drones that are launched over crowds.

One suggestion that the final cut was not made was to require a remote identifier to connect online to a location-tracking database so that drone operations could be monitored in real time by the Federal Aviation Administration (and law enforcement). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) believes that the remote identifier, which will locally transmit the location of both drones and “control stations”, meets national security and law enforcement needs.

“These final rules carefully address safety, security and privacy concerns while promoting opportunities for innovation and the use of drone technology,” US Transportation Secretary Eileen El Chau said in a press release.

The remote ID is a must for all drones over half a pound. There is clearly a large number of hobbyist drones in operation that lack remote recognition capability. To get around this, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says such drones should be affixed to a “Remote Identified Broadcast Module” that will broadcast relevant information. The only other alternative is to fly the drone only in “designated areas recognized by the FAA”.

FAA created Four classes [PDF] For drones. Class 1 is intended for drones below the weight limit that are not covered by this rule-setting process. Classes 2 and 3 are mainly determined by the amount of injury they can cause in an accident, while Class 4 is for drones that require airworthiness certification. Class 1-3 UAVs are permitted to operate above people, but not constantly flying over moving vehicles.

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Drones operating under cover of darkness will need navigation lights that can be seen from three miles away. Those wishing to travel at night will need to pass the test first.

UPS and Amazon have both secured federal approval for limited drone deliveries, and the new rules are seen as positive for them and other companies looking to market drone deliveries.

The new rules will take effect 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. Once deployed, drone manufacturers have an 18-month window to start building drones with a remote ID. And after one year of closing this window, all drone operators will need to fly drones that broadcast their remote ID.

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