The Federal Aviation Administration is known for causing headaches to drone pilots all across the USA. But it’s all justified if you ask me since the FAA is trying to make the USA a safer place for both drone owners/pilots, manned aircrafts, and everyone else.
Before we dive deeper into this topic, we need to make one thing clear – the FAA has every right to install rigorous regulations if they can further increase the safety of regular folk from negligent drone flyers and promote the use of small UAVs for commercial uses.
That said, we as drone pilots don’t have to necessarily agree with everything the FAA puts on the table. Even more so if one of those new rules put up by the FAA have the potential to endanger the drone/FPV hobby as we know it. And, realistically speaking, this new set of rules proposed by the FAA in late December 2019 is outright dangerous, not just for casual users but for prosumers too.
The good news – these new regulations aren’t official just yet. They are open for public discussion through March 2, 2020. Plus, knowing the FAA and their enforcement policies, the drone community has roughly three years till the first real enforcement kicks in.
But, that doesn’t mean we should just wait and see what sort of impact these new regulations will have in roughly two to three years. We need to react right now, join the public discussion and hope the FAA will come to a compromise before the final rules set becomes official.
Newly Proposed Drone Rules by The FAA | Late December 2019
You can read all about the new Remote ID Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the official Federal Aviation Administration website. If you can’t be bothered reading through the fancy legislative wording, here’s the gist of it:
Remote ID Notice of Proposed Rulemaking identifies three ways drone flyers can operate in the NAS (National Airspace System). They are as follows:
FAA Recognized Identification Area (FRIA)
Limited Remote Identification (LRI)
Standard Remote Identification (SRI)
This section is meant for recreational fliers (casual users and FPV enthusiasts) who will be forced to fly in fields recognized as flying areas covered by various community-based organizations. On the bright side, FRIA flying is exempt from all the hardware and transmitting requirements described above, but still requires flyers to remain within 400 feet from the control station.
There’s a downside too – we’re talking about clear and open fields here, with nothing interesting to capture and with no obstacles for FPV flyers to enjoy. From my perspective, FRIA flying is just going to be for testing purposes and nothing else… unless we get some much-needed changes in March.
Standard Remote Identification is aimed to be the bread and butter for commercial drone operators. It requires both aircrafts and control stations to possess persistent communication to the internet so they can transmit their GPS location to parties concerned with the operation. SRI allows for normal drone operation under Part 101 and COA rules, as long as you have the hardware and transmission capabilities.
Similar to SRI, Limited Remote Identification also requires your aircraft to transmit the flight information. However, SRI requires that information to be disseminated to everyone concerned with the operation, and LRI doesn’t. LRI only requires your drone to transmit the information, without the need for anyone to analyze it on the other end. This category works for areas in which there’s no strong internet connection. There is a big downside, though – drone operators under LRI are allowed to reach as far as 400 feet (lateral), otherwise, they’re breaking the law.
If you’re more interested in a video explanation coming from the FPV hobby, Joshua Bardwell’s discussion ought to shed some light on the topic!
What Could Go Wrong?
Needless to say, there’s a ton of stuff that could go wrong if these new FAA sUAV regulations aren’t finetuned to perfection. For instance, the costs of operating drones for commercial purposes will be significantly higher. Not only will you have to get a drone that’s capable of continually transmitting its current location, or modify your existing one according to the same standards, but you’ll also have to upgrade your transmitter so it can accurately measure GPS AGL position… and you’ve guessed it – that won’t be cheap!
Furthermore, they’re bound to be issued with BVLOS flights that are not more limited than ever. As stated above, BVLOS is identified as flying beyond 400 feet (lateral) and is strictly prohibited. Not only will this greatly limit the use of drones in certain commercial scenarios, but is also plain ridiculous to limit line of sight to just 400 feet when certain drones can be seen more than two, three or even four times the distance.
And don’t even get me started on the whole “losing connection” situation that’s an issue just waiting to happen. Picture this – you’ve done all you can to comply with the new Remote ID rules and you’re finally setting off on a drone mission… only for your drone to lose internet connection halfway through. In this scenario, you’d have to land as soon as possible and even then, you’d risk getting grounded for the next flight, making you unable to complete your mission.
These examples are just touching the surface of problems that are etched into these new FAA drone regulations. On the bright side, these new rules have already received a massive pushback from the industry experts, and hopefully, they’ll be heavily watered down before becoming official.
The Reasons Behind All This?
Obviously, the first answer would be – to ensure the safety of manned aircraft as well as public safety. However, the narrative goes much deeper than that and could lay the foundation for future unmanned delivery/surveillance systems. Not only that, it could help push drones into numerous other industries that they could not operate in due to regulative issues. In other words, the purpose of Remote ID is not to cause headaches to drone pilots, but to help pave the way for even wider use of drones in commercial/industrial scenarios.
Unfortunately, the regulations (in their current state) aren’t set up properly and will require a lot of fine-tuning to make everyone comfortable and satisfied with the end results. I’m afraid the FAA still isn’t aware of the level of sophistication and complexity that’s established in the drone sector, not just coming from the enthusiasts’ but prosumers’ point of view too.
“The whole drone community is looking forward to a remote identification solution, but we have to make sure it’s one that’s not onerous, with no negative privacy implications.” – Stephanie Loder and Jeff Rubenstone