Small drones will be allowed to fly over people, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said. This will be a significant step towards using them for commercial shipping.
The FAA said it is introducing new rules that will solve existing security problems: it will be necessary to install special software on drones that allows them to be identified from the ground.
The rules go into effect 60 days after being posted on the federal register in January. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin production of remotely-identified drones, allowing drones to be recognized, and operators will have an additional year for FAA data transfers. There are other, more complex rules that allow drones to be used at night and in some cases to fly over people for larger aircraft.
“The new regulations open the way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dixon. “They bring us closer to the day when we will more regularly observe the use of drones, for example, to deliver packages.”
The United States has over 1.7 million registered drones and 203,000 FAA-certified operators that can fly them.
The Federal Aviation Administration said that drones must be equipped with special lighting devices to operate at night. Remote identification is required for all drones weighing 0.25kg or more, as well as those that will fly over people.
The new regulation removes the requirement for drones to be connected to the Internet to transmit location data. Instead, they will broadcast remote identification messages via radio frequency broadcasts. Without this change, the use of drones in areas without Internet access would not have been possible.
The International Association for Unmanned Transportation Systems said that remote identification will function as “a digital license plate for drones … that will allow more complex operations,” and the use of drones at night and for flying over people “is an important step towards integrating drones into our national airspace “.