On Dec. 28, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released two rules related to the use of “unmanned aircraft,” commonly known as drones.
Utilities are more frequently using drones for inspecting the miles of transmission lines, which are often difficult to reach in person, as well as the associated substations and some distribution lines. In addition, engineering and construction firms involved in building large facilities that cover a large number of acres also often use drones to inspect the work areas to assess work progress and potential problems and help ensure employee safety.
According to the FAA, “The new rules will require Remote Identification (Remote ID) of drones and allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions. These rules come at a time when drones represent the fastest-growing segment of the entire transportation sector¾with currently over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certified remote pilots.”
The first rule relates to remote identification. The FAA noted that Remote ID is a major step toward the full integration of drones into the national airspace system. Remote ID provides identification of drones in flight and the location of their control stations, which provides crucial information to national security agencies, law enforcement organizations and other officials charged with being responsible for public safety.
“Airspace awareness reduces the risk of drone interference with other aircraft and people and property on the ground,” the FAA said.
“The new rules make way for the future integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said Steve Dickson, FAA administrator.
The Remote ID rule applies to all operators of drones that require FAA registration. There are three ways to comply with the operational requirements:
- Operate a standard Remote ID drone that broadcasts identification and location information of the drone and control station.
- Operate a drone with a Remote ID broadcast module (which may be a separate device attached to the drone) that broadcasts identification, location and takeoff information.
- Operate a drone without Remote ID, but at specific FAA-recognized identification areas.
The second new rule released by the FAA relates to “Operations Over People and at Night,” and is primarily focused on companies that plan to use drones to conduct operations such as delivering packages.