FAA issues new drone rules, moving US closer to aerial package delivery

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday said it is issuing long-awaited rules to allow for small drones to fly over people and at night, a significant step toward their use for widespread commercial deliveries.

The FAA is also requiring remote identification of most drones, which are formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to address security concerns.

“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 in a statement. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

The race has been on for companies to create drone fleets to speed deliveries.

For night operations, FAA said drones must be equipped with anti-collision lights. The final rules allow operation over moving vehicles in some circumstances.

Remote ID is required for all drones weighing 0.55 pounds or more, but is required for smaller drones under certain circumstances like flights over open-air assemblies.

One change in the final rule requires that those small drones cannot have any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. The final Remote ID rule eliminates the requirement that drones be connected to the internet to transmit location data; the final rule requires drones to broadcasts remote ID messages via radio frequency broadcast.

United Parcel Service said in October 2019 that it won the government’s first full approval to operate a drone airline.

Last year, Alphabet’s Wing, a sister unit of search engine Google, was the first company to get US air carrier certification for a single-pilot drone operation. In August, Amazon’s drone service received federal approval allowing the retailer to begin testing commercial deliveries through its drone fleet.

The new rules will become effective 60 days after publication next month. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID, while drone operators have an additional year to begin using drones with Remote ID.

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