Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The FAA Releases Its Final Rules for Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People and At Night

 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has issued  final rules for Unmanned Aircraft (“UA”), commonly known as drones.  These final rules were published in the Federal Register on January 15, 2021, at 86 FR 4390, which established March 16, 2021 as the date upon which the rules will become final. Both will have a critical impact on the integration of unmanned aircraft of all types into the National Airspace system (“NAS”).

 

The first rule, as discussed in the previous post, will require Remote Identification (“Remote ID”) of drones.  This Remote ID requirement will apply broadly to unmanned aircraft.  This will  include both UAS governed by the FAA’s rules found in Part 107 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations and UAM operations governed by Part 135 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulation.

The FAA indicates that the second rule will allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions. The final rule allows routine operations over people and routine operations at night under certain circumstances. The rule will eliminate the need for those operations to receive individual Part 107 waivers from the FAA.

The final rule establishes four new categories of small unmanned aircraft for routine operations over people, i.e., Category 1, Category 2, Category 3, and Category 4, as follows:

• “Category 1 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which weigh less than 0.55, including everything on board or otherwise attached, and contain no exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin.

• “Category 2 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which do not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects.

• “Category 3 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which do not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects.

• “Category 4 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which must have an airworthiness certificate issued by the FAA pursuant to Part 21 of FAA regulations. Such small unmanned aircraft must be operated in accordance with the operating limitations specified in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator. The operating limitations must not prohibit operations over human beings.

The primary condition in the operating rules for small unmanned aircraft operations at night are that the aircraft must be equipped with anti-collision lights that can be seen for 3 statute miles and have a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision.

Additional requirements for each category of small unmanned aircraft for routine operations over people are found here.

For further information contact Robert E. Kelly, Esq., at kellylawuas@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The FAA Releases Its Final Remote ID Rules for Unmanned Aircraft

 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) on December 28, 2020, in a press release announced final rules for Unmanned Aircraft (“UA”), commonly known as drones.  These final rules were published in the Federal Register on January 15, 2021, at 86 FR 4390, which established March 16, 2021 as the date upon which the rules will become final.

The first rule will require Remote Identification (“Remote ID”) of drones and allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions. The FAA press release indicated that the new rule Remote ID rules are timely, since drones represent the fastest-growing segment in the entire transportation sector – with currently over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots.

The FAA in its press release states that “Remote ID will help mitigate risks associated with expanded drone operations, such as flights over people and at night, and both rules support technological and operational innovation and advancements.”

The new rules should have a significant impact with respect to the development of the UAS industry.  “The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

The Remote ID rule (PDF) applies to all operators of drones that require FAA registration. There are three ways to comply with the operational requirements:

1. Operate a standard Remote ID drone that broadcasts identification and location information of the drone and control station;

2. Operate a drone with a Remote ID broadcast module (may be a separate device attached to the drone), which broadcasts identification, location, and take-off information; or

3. Operate a drone without Remote ID but at specific FAA-recognized identification areas.

See the link to the full text of the final rule at FAA’s Remote ID webpage here

There is one interesting note initially from a legal perspective.  The FAA makes clear in the Remote ID Executive Summary in footnote 1 that the new Remote ID rules apply broadly to unmanned aircraft (“UA”) and not simply unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”).  Footnote 1 states in part:

The FAA does not use the terms unmanned aircraft system and unmanned aircraft interchangeably. The FAA uses the term unmanned aircraft as defined in 14 CFR 1.1 to refer specifically to the unmanned aircraft itself. The FAA uses the term unmanned aircraft system to refer to both the unmanned aircraft and any communication links and components that control the unmanned aircraft. As explained in section V.A of this rule, the FAA is adding the definition of unmanned aircraft system to 14 CFR part 1.

Given the extensive nature of this Remote ID final rule (124 pages in the Federal Register) further analysis of this final rule will follow.