Saturday, December 28, 2019

The FAA Proposes a Landmark Rule for UAS Remote Identification

In the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress tasked the Secretary of Transportation with developing “a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of

civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.” Pub. L. 112-95, § 332(a)(1), 126 Stat. 11, 73 (codified at 49 U.S.C. § 40101).               

In 2016, pursuant to the instruction of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, the Federal Aviation Administration  (FAA) promulgated the rule establishing the regulatory scheme  for drones in  Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 81 Fed. Reg. 42,064 (June 28, 2016) (hereinafter “Small UAS Rule”). This rule added a new part 107 to Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) to allow for routine civil operation of small UAS (i.e., drones) in the national airspace system (“NAS") and to provide safety rules for those operations.

The key element to this new part 107 to CFR Title 14 was to allow commercial operation of Small UAS, i.e., drones weighing less than 55 pounds.

Now, in a truly landmark event, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on December 26, 2019, announced in a press release a proposed rule that would continue the safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly called drones, into the nation’s airspace by requiring them to be identifiable remotely.

“Remote ID technologies will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and Federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The FAA states that the adoption of the proposed rule would then require the remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems. The remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems in the airspace of the United States would address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns regarding the further  integration of these aircraft into the airspace of the United States while also enabling greater operational capabilities.

The FAA will seek input regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) for Remote Identification (“Remote ID”) of Unmanned Aircraft Systems  that was placed on display in the Federal Register on December 26, 2019. The document details in the Federal Register accompanying the proposed rule indicates that the 319-page NPRM, Document No. 2019-28100 in Docket No.: FAA-2019-1100 will be published on December 31, 2019. The publication date will establish a 60-day window for the filing of comments by interested parties to assist the FAA in developing a final rule to enhance safety in the skies over the U.S. due to the implementation of Remote ID systems.

See a copy of the complete FAA Remote ID NPRM  here.

As the reader might imagine, the 319-page document establishing the FAA’s Remote ID regulatory scheme, which program will be the foundation for all drone traffic management in the future, is  intensely complicated. As the FAA notes in its press release, Drones are a fast-growing segment of the entire transportation sector – nearly 1.5 million drones and 160,000 remote pilots are registered with the FAA, with that number estimated to increase as the FAA implements its Remote ID program and teh commercial drone industry continues to mature. Consequently, all interested parties are encouraged to weigh in with comments regarding this revolutionary proposal..  

A more detailed analysis of the NPRM, section by section, will follow in future posts.

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