New Year, New Rules

On December 31, 2019, the FAA published a proposal outlining new rules enabling a system to track all drone flights in the..

New Year, New Rules
Monday February 10th 2020 - 14:39 AM EST

By: Air Aspects

On December 31, 2019, the FAA published a proposal outlining new rules enabling a system to track all drone flights in the USA.

The proposal, released in the interest of public safety and awareness, has a few items that have many drone pilots very unhappy and some on the verge of leaving the hobby.

The FAA already requires all drones larger than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) to be registered. They also want the drone to broadcast identifying information in order to fly in most locations.

The main issue is that current drones do not broadcast all the information that the FAA wants.

This means that current drone owners, both recreational and commercial, might have to buy additional equipment and also subscribe to a proposed monthly data service to comply.

It is unknown how expensive these will be for regular users. There are fears that they could price out all but larger commercial operators.

Based on the wording of the document, a drone without the extra equipment and monthly subscription may not be able to take off unless traveling an estimated 15 miles to one of a few locations—usually fields called FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIA).

A major concern of most pilots is that the data subscription system will be cell-service based.    This means that someone operating the drone in a location with bad, or no, cell service will also be stopped from flying.

I have flown my drones commercially in rural locations like the Eastern Shore, where there has been very weak cellphone service.  If I was on a commercial job, not being able to fly when I arrived on-site would be expensive and frustrating.

Another concern is that the FAA wants pilot identifying information to be publicly accessible in real-time, for example, via cell phone apps.

This has led to concerns over issues of privacy and possible endangerment.

Because drones are still relatively new and have often been sensationalized in the media as spying machines, some drone pilots have been harassed, injured, and had their property destroyed while flying legitimately. There have also been cases of pilots being robbed  or having their apparatus stolen from their vehicles.

Many pilots fear that if the public (including criminals) are able to see details on them, including their exact location, there could be an escalation in confrontations, thefts, violence, and worse.
The next few months are critical in the process, and we expect to see the initial version of the FAA’s rules soon.

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