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  • Charl Jooste

Exciting new rules for drone pilots including operations over people and night flights

The FAA has been very proactive in the way in which they regulate the drone industry. This important task must be extremely challenging and most will agree that they have done a stellar job so far. It is critical that the skies are safe for all concerned. The drone industry has grown rapidly and the FAA has evolved along with it.

There are exciting days ahead with new laws that will allow for flights over people, over moving vehicles as well as night flights, subject to certain restrictions. The new rules will go into effect on April 21, 2021. These will ensure safety and privacy concerns while giving drone pilots and operators greater freedom.

The most exciting news is that “Operations Over People” will be allowed. Until now, this restriction has made many drone operations a major challenge. The drone flying public as well as the industry welcome this fantastic news. It will allow for great freedom and increase the opportunities for drone operators.

While restrictions are necessary and safety is critical, drone pilots need flexibility and freedom to conduct their operations. This new rule goes a long way in improving the freedom and flexibility.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) made the announcement in Washington late last year. The announcement concerns rules governing night drone flights and flights over people.

There are more than 1.7 million drones registered with the FAA as well as 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots. This makes that the fastest-growing part of the transport industry.

Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation announced “These final rules carefully address safety, security and privacy concerns while advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology,”.

Prior to flying under the new provisions, drone pilots must complete the online training course which has been updated to accommodate the new rules, or pass an initial knowledge test which has also been updated. The final rule also replaces the 24 calendar month requirement to complete a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test with the requirement to complete updated online recurrent training that includes the rule’s new provisions. The online course will be available April 6, 2021.

Once the test or course is successfully completed, one can take advantage of these awesome new rules and the opportunities they provide.

Currently, one needs to get a waiver from the FAA in order to operate at night or fly over people. Naturally, this is a time-consuming and tedious task. The new rules will resolve this issue and waivers will no longer be needed. This is great news for drone operators for both leisure but particularly commercial use.

Steve Dickson, FAA Administrator explains “The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns. They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

There are still certain restrictions and it is important that drone operators a familiar with the rules and regulations. They will be available from the FAA. One can go to their website, email them or contact them on 844-FLY-MY-UA.

Remote ID, when it comes into effect September 16, 2022, will reduce risk and allow for more flying options without any additional risk to people, property, or other aircraft. It will allow drones to become fully integrated into the national airspace system. It is a great technological advancement and something the FAA and other involved parties have been working on for some time.

The technology allows for airspace awareness and reduces the risk to other aircraft in the airspace as well as people and property below.

Both the “Operations Over People Rule (PDF) and Remote ID (PDF) “ are available for public viewing on the Federal Register.

This is exciting news for the drone industry and one has to give credit to the proactive approach the FAA has taken in this challenging environment. We all want a safe environment but also need the freedom and flexibility to operate our drones as needed. The FAA has come up with a creative technological solution that addresses these needs.


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