Changes to FAA Drone Rules Worthy of Your Attention

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced final rules in December 2020 for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), aka drones, that will potentially impact many Part 107 certificate holders in the coming years. This article summarizes a few of those rule changes and provides links to sites with more information.

One rule change will be the requirement for most drones to have the capability to broadcast their remote identification to authorized public safety organizations. This rule change, which was hotly debated in the drone community, is a response to numerous reports of incidents involving drones and public safety. Drone manufacturers will make this a default feature on new drones in the future. Remote ID modules will be available to retrofit existing drones. For more information on Remote ID, see https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/remote_id. Another information source that’s a bit easier to read is https://pilotinstitute.com/remote-id-guide.

Other FAA rule changes involve drone flights 1) over people and 2) at night. Previously, such flights required FAA authorizations or waivers. The new rule changes will simplify those flight operations. For more information on both of these rule changes, see https://www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/operations_over_people.

One of the requirements for night flight operations will be to equip your drone with anti-collision lighting capable of being seen from at least 3 statute miles. Note this requirement is NOT intended for you as the drone pilot to keep track of your own aircraft. The ANTI-COLLISION lighting is intended for other aircraft in the vicinity so that they can see your aircraft at night and avoid a mid-air collision. I do not pretend to have experience with many of these anti-collision lights for drones, but I came across a good article recently from Pilot Institute (https://pilotinstitute.com/drone-strobe-lights/) that describes the results of simple comparisons among seven different drone strobe light options. The authors were especially keen on one particular strobe light, the Firehouse Technology Arc V.

Finally, the FAA is changing how Part 107 certified pilots maintain their currency, aka staying up to date on drone flight knowledge. Prior to this rule change, Part 107 pilots had to pass a recurrent knowledge test every two years to maintain their currency. Beginning this month (March 2021), there will no longer be a requirement to take / pass a recurrent knowledge test. Rather, from this point forward, Part 107 certificate holders will simply complete an on-line safety training course every two years. No exam. No fees. The recurrent safety training course will also include information required to be certified for legally operating drones at night. For more information, see https://pilotinstitute.com/part-107-currency.

The online recurrent training course is accessed at https://www.faasafety.gov/gslac/ALC/CourseLanding.aspx?cID=515. Theoretically, the site is available now for recurrent safety training, but I have not yet tried it because my Part 107 certificate currency does not expire until July.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

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