The government released two new drone-use rule mandates at the end of 2020, which Stockpile Reports said is the next big step toward drone autonomy.
1. Drones must broadcast a “digital license plate.” Every drone over 0.55 lb. (0.25 kg) must broadcast a unique “Remote ID” when in the skies. This is akin to a digital license plate. The information sent out will be your drone’s location, an identification number, the speed, altitude, and most importantly your – the pilot’s – location. This rule will be applicable for all new mass-produced drones in 2022. By 2023, all old drones must also comply with the standard.
Currently, you’re only required to tack on a sticker to your drone, which isn’t exactly safe from a security standpoint. With the new system, law enforcement can potentially find and take down dangerous fliers fairly quickly. The new system may be based on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi broadcasting technology. The logistics are to be worked out by the manufacturers.
What does this have to do with autonomy? A primary reason the government regulates drones so strictly is that they’re a security risk. By making Remote ID mandatory, the government will have an easier time regulating them. It makes unmanned drones less of a threat, especially in FAA-approved designated fly zones. The new law is paving the way for autonomous drones to take to the skies.
2. Conditionally, you can fly drones over people and at night without a waiver. If you’re a licensed drone pilot, you can now conditionally fly over people, vehicles and at night without individual part 107 waivers from the Federal Aviation Administration. The new rule separates drones into 4 individual categories based on weight and injury potential, with different requirements for every category. Of course, you will still need a permit to fly over people, vehicles, and at night. This requires taking the test, which has been updated for night operations, and acquiring a license.
Further, there are some conditions you need to comply with. For flying at night, the drone must have anti-collision lights that can be seen for 3 miles. The flash rate should also be up to par. All this is to prevent collisions. If you’re flying a drone over vehicles, it should only be briefly for transit. For flying drones over people, you must comply with the Remote ID rule. Category 3 drones can’t be flown over gatherings of people, only in private areas when certain conditions are met.
Essentially, the new rules are reasonable and relaxed. They reduce the hoops you and your pilots have to jump through to fly over people and at night. It’s a step toward making out-of-line-of-sight, autonomous operations over public and commercial places a reality.
Stockpile Reports released the following video explaining the new rules.