The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 14 CFR Part 89 final rule on the remote identification (RID) of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is expected to be published in the Federal Register this month. The rule goes into effect the same time as a rule that amends 14 CFR Part 107 to allow operations of UAS over people and at night.
Remote Identification is hailed as the next incremental step toward further integration of UAS in the National Airspace System. It has been further described as a digital license plate and will be helpful to law enforcement and regulators. There have been situations where unmanned aircraft were not operated legally; however, no enforcement action was taken because it could not be determined with certainty who was operating the UAS or where it was operating. The new rule requires drones to be equipped with technology that will determine a drone’s location and the time it is operating in specific locations. NAAA has been active in advocating drones half a pound or greater be tracked and identified long before the FAA issued its proposed rule in the spring of 2020. You can read those NAAA comments here and the corresponding March 2020 eNewsletter article here.
NAAA has also been pushing for the FAA to require drone sense-and-avoid technology and ADS-B technology to better ensure the safety of manned aircraft from drones; however, that is not a use that will be required as a result of this rule. Under this RID rule, drones will be required to broadcast a signal that includes, among other information, the UAS’s ID serial number, latitude/longitude, altitude, velocity, emergency status and time mark. The identification of the owner/operator of the serial-numbered UAS will only be available to law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
The specific frequency band of the broadcast signal is not specified other than it must be compatible with personal wireless devices such as tablets or phones using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The signal strength is required to be optimized to allow reception by as many devices as possible. With only a few exceptions, RID is required for all drones over 0.55 pounds operating outside of an enclosed structure. This is a requirement that NAAA has promoted and was successful in obtaining.
Included in this rule is a prohibition against most UAS using ADS-B Out. This is to prevent the ADS-B system from becoming overwhelmed. NAAA continues to encourage UAS to incorporate ADS-B In, which would enhance safety by informing the UAS operator when an ADS-B out equipped manned aircraft is in the area and obligate them to give the right of way to the manned aircraft as required by Part 107. Newly manufactured unmanned aircraft must meet the requirements of this rule beginning 18 months after publication of the rule in the Federal Register. The operational compliance date for previously manufactured and newly manufactured unmanned aircraft is 30 months after publication.
UAS Operations over People will be allowed by the amendment to 14 CFR 107. The operations have to fit into one of four categories. Each category has different requirements and risk mitigations. The mitigations range from weight limitations to rotating parts being covered to the requirement for a Part 21 airworthiness certificate. Most categories require RID. To read the full mitigation requirements and categories, click here.
UAS Operations at Night are also allowed, which was previously prohibited by Part 107. To qualify for night operations, The UAS must have strobe type anti-collision lighting that is visible for at least 3 miles. The remote pilot operating the UAS is required to have an updated knowledge test to ensure familiarity with the risks and appropriate mitigations for nighttime operations. To read more about UAS operations at night, click here.
NAAA commented on the over-people and at-night rule in March of 2019 when it was first proposed. You can view those comments here. NAAA comments were specifically mentioned in the FAA’s final rule:
NAAA voiced concern about pilot difficulty of spotting a small, unmanned aircraft while the pilot is operating at a very low altitude in what is already a high task load environment. They pointed to a 2015 test conducted by the Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association, which determined that it was difficult for pilots who conduct agricultural aviation operations to detect and track a small, unmanned aircraft at the same time as maneuvering their aircraft for agricultural operations. Pilots operating manned aircraft at low altitudes would experience difficulty in identifying small, unmanned aircraft operating at night, but as discussed previously, numerous mitigations exist to decrease the likelihood of a midair collision.
While the FAA did not completely agree with all of NAAA’s comments, they were definitely taken into consideration.
NAAA continues to work on UAS issues stressing safety to manned aircraft by advocating for technology that will eventually evolve into a traffic management system directing UAS away from manned aircraft. Currently, ADS-B is the only available electronic technology for traffic deconfliction. NAAA encourages manned aircraft to install ADS-B In and Out and for UAS to have ADS-B In. In 2020 the leading drone manufacturer—DJI—started installing ADS-B receivers in all of its UAS. NAAA also pushes for UAS to have high-visibility paint schemes and strobe lighting for both day and night operations.