The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing drastic changes to their drone rules in the United States and the public has until March 2, 2020 to comment on them. Among the proposed changes include new far-reaching Remote Identification rules that will affect how drones are designed, produced and used. This proposal would require almost all drones in America to connect to a computer network service in order to fly legally, which the FAA anticipates will require recurring monthly fees for drone users.
If enacted, the new FAA rules could be a boon to private industries that would profit on new regulatory requirements. The full implementation of the proposed remote identification rules rely on three interdependent parts that are being developed concurrently. The first is this proposed rule, which establishes operating requirements for drone operators and performance-based design and production standards for producers of drone. The second is a network of Remote ID UAS Service Suppliers (Remote ID USS) that would collect the identification and location in real-time from in-flight drones. The Remote ID USS would perform this service under contract with the FAA, based on the same model the FAA currently uses for the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). The third part of the remote identification ecosystem is the collection of technical requirements that standards-setting organizations will develop to meet the performance-based design and production requirements in this proposed rule.
Two of the proposed changes drawing the most attention are the requirement that the drone itself have an internet connection and that the location of a drone pilot always be public.
Such a rule change would instantly make many existing drones obsolete, forcing hobbyists to upgrade or discard them, even if they’re used simply as toys. Requiring drones to have their own internet connection could also be costly since many would need to subscribe to an additional wireless data plan for their aerial device.
The proposed rule change would require the location of the pilot of a drone to always be public, a concern for privacy rights advocates. Some drone pilot lobby groups say exposing the pilot location in real-time could lead to attacks, muggings, and other crimes, especially when the drone is being used for a sensitive mission to protect public safety.
The Weatherboy team employs multiple drones to document events in the air, including various meteorological phenomena. In 2019, drone WeatherboyOne traveled to the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island to document the HI-SEAS lunar/Mars lab there. WeatherboyOne was also used in Florida after Hurricane Irma to document damage along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
The most popular drone manufacturer, DJI, wrote an essay about their concerns on the new drone rules here.
The full proposed rule change can be read here.
The public can provide comment to the FAA on the rule changes through a variety of methods; however, all comments must be in by 11:59pm ET on Monday, March 2, 2020. Comments identified by docket number FAA-2019-1100 can use any of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
- Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
- Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
- Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.