Monday, February 18, 2019

The FAA’s New Interim Final Rule Requires External Marking of Registration Numbers on Small Unmanned Aircraft

The FAA has now issued a new Interim Final Rule on February 13, 2019, which revises the small unmanned aircraft marking requirement. The new Interim Final Rule becomes effective February 25, 2019.  See 84 FR 3669 (February 13, 2019)  (“2019 Interim Final Rule”).  The FAA now requires that the registration number be marked on the exterior of the aircraft. The FAA is taking this action in the 2019 Interim Final Rule to address concerns expressed by the law enforcement community and the FAA’s interagency security partners regarding the risk that a concealed explosive device poses to first responders who must open a compartment to find the small unmanned aircraft’s registration number.

As background, the FAA observed that in the interim final rule titled “Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft” (Registration IFR), the agency  provided a web-based aircraft registration process for the registration of small unmanned aircraft to facilitate compliance with the statutory requirement that all aircraft register prior to operation. See 80 FR 78593 (December 16, 2015). The Registration IFR also required that the FAA-issued number assigned during the registration process be affixed or marked on the small unmanned aircraft. To grant flexibility to the diverse types of small unmanned aircraft commercially available, the FAA required that the registration number marking be readily accessible and maintained in a condition that is readable and legible upon close visual inspection. The IFR further explained that markings in an enclosed compartment, such as a battery compartment, will be considered readily accessible if they can be accessed without the use of tools. See 80 FR at 78627-28.

As the FAA noted, after the 2015 Registration IFR became effective, the law enforcement community and FAA’s interagency security partners highlighted the risk to first responders when registration numbers are permitted to be concealed. To address this safety and security risk, the FAA is amending 14 CFR 48.205(c) to require the registration number be displayed and visible on an external surface of the small unmanned aircraft. The FAA indicated in the 2019 Interim Final Rule that the agency has determined that the importance of mitigating the risk to first responders outweighs the previously discussed aesthetic interests and justifies the minimal burden and inconvenience this change could impose on small unmanned aircraft owners.  Consequently, small unmanned aircraft owners are no longer permitted to enclose the FAA-issued registration number in a compartment.

Comments may be submitted by the public in this proceeding on or before March 15, 2019. 
Comments may be submitted electronically following the instructions in the link here: