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Rolling Out the Rules

New Drone Rules Advance the Vision

Source: FAA Safety Briefing, May/June 2021
By Alina George

Editor's Note: This article has been revised from the print verison to help correct and clarify certain sections.

The FAA published two new drone rules, Remote Identification and Operations Over People, on Jan. 15, 2021. Both are part of a broader vision for full integration of drones into the National Airspace System (NAS) and Advanced Air Mobility. The intent of these rules is to keep everyone safe while ensuring flexibility for all kinds of drone operations. Both rules took effect April 21, 2021, but compliance dates differ. Remote ID requires manufacturers to produce standard remote ID drones by September 2022, and drone pilots must broadcast remote ID information by September 2023. We encourage pilots to comply earlier though, once broadcast modules are available (more on that later). Operations Over People was also effective April 21, 2021.

Both rules are performance-based, which means they make room for manufacturers and industry to come up with innovative solutions. You might also note that the FAA considered and addressed all 53,000-plus comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)for Remote ID. For example, the NPRM did not include educational institutions among the Community Based Organizations eligible to apply for a FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). Based on public comments, they were included in the final rule.

To help you better understand the rules and how they may affect drone flying, here’s a review of the main points.

What is Remote Identification?

drone rules timeline

Think of Remote ID as a “digital license plate” for drones. It provides the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies with identification and location information. Remote ID is a necessary step to achieve the goal of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), which is the vision for complete integration of drones into the NAS. For AAM, think short-range air transportation, à la the Jetsons! Remote ID will be required on most drones in the NAS. It will provide specific information on the drone's flight (serial number of drone, location and altitude of the drone, and the position of the control station or take-off location). This information will be transmitted from the drone. In keeping with the “digital license plate” analogy, the scope of Remote ID transmission is like seeing a license plate on a car nearby.

Here are some of the most important takeaways of Remote ID (RID):

  • RID compliance becomes mandatory September 16, 2023 (September 16, 2022 for manufacturers) for all pilots who are required to register their drone. Some pilots may start complying sooner as broadcast modules and standard remote ID drones are approved.
  • There are three ways drone pilots can meet the RID requirements:


    1. Operate a Standard RID Drone — the drone will be built with RID embedded.
    2. Operate a drone with an RID broadcast module — the module is a separate device to be attached on the drone.
    3. Operate without remote ID in a FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). (See FRIA graphic below.)

drones without remote ID

  • Manufacturers will start producing broadcast modules and/or producing drones with RID embedded into the system.
  • When available, drone owners must enter the remote ID serial number in their FAADroneZone (faadronezone.faa.gov) registration account.
  • Recreational flyers have the option to move their broadcast module from one drone to the next, so long as the drone is listed with the same registration number.
  • If the pilot uses a RID broadcast module, the module's serial number must be associated with their registration.
  • Only law enforcement and federal agencies will be able to see Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as name, address, and phone numbers.
  • FRIAs are areas operated by Community Based Organizations (CBOs) or educational institutions approved by the FAA. CBOs can be organizations such as model aircraft groups or schools.
  • The FAA will start accepting FRIA applications on September 16, 2022. Approved authorizations will be valid for 48 months and may be renewed. FRIAs may be terminated by the FAA for safety or security reasons.

drone remote identification

What is Operations Over People?

Operations Over People timeline

The Operations Over People (OOP) rule is another step towards AAM. This rule allows routine operations over people and at night under certain conditions. As with all FAA rules, it balances safety with the need for expanded and more complicated operations. Here are some important takeaways for OOP:

OOP became effective April 21, 2021.

  • There are four drone Categories for OOP:

1. Category 1:

a) 0.55 lbs or less
b) No exposed rotating parts that would cause skin lacerations
c) Requires RID

2. Category 2:

a) Performance based eligibility and operating requirements
b) Requires RID if operating sustained flight over open-air assemblies of people

3. Category 3:

a) Performance based eligibility and operating requirements
b) Can only operate over people if the operation is within or over a restricted access site and everyone is aware the drone will be flown over them
c) No sustained flight over people, unless that person is participating in the operation, or is reasonably protected (tent, vehicle, etc.)

4. Category 4:

a) Small unmanned aircraft can be issued a part 21 airworthiness certificate to operate over people
b) Need to be compliant with RID during sustained flight over open air assemblies

  • Operations over Moving Vehicles:

a) Must meet category 1, 2, 3, or 4
b) The small unmanned aircraft must remain within or over a closed/restricted-access site, and all people inside a moving vehicle within the closed/restricted-access site must be on notice that small unmanned aircraft may fly over them; or
c) The small unmanned aircraft does not maintain sustained flight over moving vehicles

  • Night Operations:

a) Effective April 21, 2021
b) The pilot-in-command (PIC) must complete the updated knowledge test or new recurrent training
c) The small unmanned aircraft must have lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least three (3) statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision

  • New Test and Training:

a) The remote pilot test has been updated to include operations at night
b) The new training is available on www.faasafety.gov and is required for all remote PICs who want to fly at night

Remote ID and Operations Over People are the next step into a wider world of AAM. They set the stage for safe and complex operations, and are a path to flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). BVLOS will be necessary for reaching AAM and full integration.

We’re getting there, one step at a time! Full integration is getting closer every day, and these two new rules will help keep the NAS, people on the ground, and aircraft safe.

Learn More

Check out the Remote ID Toolkit - https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Remote_ID_Toolkit.pdf

Final Rule on Remote ID for Unmanned Aircraft - https://www.faa.gov/news/media/attachments/RemoteID_Executive_Summary.pdf

Alina George is a project specialist in the Operational Programs Branch of the FAA’s Office of UAS Integration.

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