Small aerial drone technology will be changing in the next two to three years as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implements new technologies that will enable tracking of drones in the U.S. airspace.
New Rule Affecting Small Aerial Drones
The FAA is currently developing a new rule that will require remote identification of small unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Upon publication of the final rule, all UAS systems flown in the U.S. will have three years to become compliant. Of note, UAS manufacturers must be compliant within two years.
Under this proposed rule, a system of unmanned air traffic management will be implemented to identify and locate aerial drones and their control stations. Information will be accessible to the FAA, national security agencies, and law enforcement. It may also be made available to the public via a cell phone application.
According to the FAA, this new system will address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns regarding the further integration of these aircraft into the airspace while also enabling greater operational capabilities.
How Will This New Rule Be Implemented?
All UAS systems will need to be registered with the FAA. Upon take-off, the FAA envisions that the UAS will broadcast its information via RF while the remote controller will transmit information via the Internet. The FAA has specifically excluded ADS-B Out and transponder technologies due to congestion of those spectrums.
Three classes of Rule implementation are envisioned:
- Standard Remote Identification: Your drone will self-broadcast via RF and your remote controller will send data via an Internet connection.
- Limited Remote Identification: No drone RF broadcast, but the R/C must have an Internet connection. Flights will be restricted to 400 feet visual line of sight from the operator.
- No Remote Identification: Your drone must be operated within visual line of sight and within an FAA-recognized identification area. (The FAA will assign these areas to community-based safety organizations.)
An in-flight database is expected to include location and altitude of both the aircraft and the control station. Registered owner name will not be included at this time, but will be made available by the FAA to law enforcement. My understanding is that law enforcement will not be able to use this technology to force the aircraft down. (They have other methods to capture drones.)
Legacy Aerial Drone Systems
After this new rule phases in, operating your drone without updated remote identification capability will limit flights to within your visual line of sight and restrict your operations to an FAA-recognized identification area. Enforcement provisions don’t appear in the Rule, but the teeth may be implemented in changes to the Code of Federal Regulations.
Further information on the FAA’s proposed rule for Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems can be found at: Federal Register/Vol. 84, No. 250/Tuesday, December 31, 2019/Proposed Rules