FAA’s Comprehensive New Rules for Drones are Imminent: Comply or Don’t Fly

The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) in January implemented a new rule section, Part 89 of Title 14 of Code of Federal Regulations. Part 89 imposes new remote identification (“Remote ID”) requirements on unmanned aircraft (“UA”) and related equipment, for which their manufacturers and operators are responsible. The Remote ID rules are intended to fully integrate UAs into the National Airspace System; expanding the scope of UAs’ operations including permitting UAs to fly over people and at night, as well as ensuring that UAs and operators can be located in the event safety or law enforcement issues arise. The new rules go into effect on April 21, 2021.

Remote ID Requirements

UA suppliers and operators have three different options for complying with the new Remote ID requirements. No matter which option is chosen, the operators and suppliers will be subject to substantial amounts of new regulatory work, in addition to the existing registration requirements under Part 107 of the FAA’s rules.          

  1. Standard Remote ID UA

This requires UAs to broadcast Remote ID messages from the UA using unlicensed radio frequencies (e.g., Wi-Fi frequencies), and broadcasts will be compatible with personal wireless devices. The Remote ID broadcasts are subject to: (a) operational requirements, including but not limited to: continuous broadcasting from takeoff to shutdown, interference considerations, self-testing and monitoring, and error correction; and (b) message element conditions, including but not limited to: integration of a unique identifier, control stations’ coordinates and altitudes, time marks, and messaging rates. The UA must be capable of broadcasting the message elements using a non-propriety broadcast specification.

  1. UA With a Remote Broadcast Module

This option enables retrofitting of UAs and provides flexibility to UA operators whose aircraft do not meet the requirements for Standard Remote ID UA. UAs may be equipped with a remote ID broadcast module by attaching Remote ID broadcast module to the UA or by other means (e.g., software upgrade). Operation of UA equipped with Remote ID modules is restricted to the visual line of sight (“VLOS”) of the UA operator. The operational and message element requirements for broadcast modules are similar, but not identical, to those of Standard Remote ID UAs

  1. FAA-Recognized Identification Area (“FRIA”)

FRIAs are geographic areas recognized by the FAA where UAs not equipped with Remote ID are permitted to operate. The only eligible entities for FRIA are FAA-recognized community-based organizations, and educational institutions. Operators must fly UAs in VLOS. In order to obtain use a of a FRIA, an eligible entity must submit an application for same to the FAA containing specified information including a detailed description of the intended purpose of the FRIA and an in-depth explanation as to why the proposed FRIA is necessary for that purpose. If the FAA accepts a FRIA application, authority to use the FRIA is good for 48 months and can be renewed in advance of the expiration date.

Remote ID Design and Production

Standard Remote ID UA and broadcast modules must be meticulously designed and produced to meet the requirements of Part 89. UA manufacturers are responsible for compliance with these rules. The design and production rules are rather convoluted, e.g., different rules apply if a manufacturer chooses to produce a UA in accordance with the FAA’s Part 21 certification procedures or not.

In general, the following design requirements apply to UA manufacturers:

  • Serial Number. Manufacturer must assign a serial number to the UA or broadcast module that complies with the standard ANSI/CTA-2063-A.
  • Means of Compliance (“MoC”). This is a showing that the proposed UA design meets the requirements of Part 89. Manufacturers are required to submit a MoC to the FAA, which must approve it before the proposed design can be used for a UA or module. The MOC must contain, at a minimum: (a) a detailed description of the means of compliance; (b) an explanation of how the MoC addresses all of the requirements of Part 89; and (c) testing and validation procedures.
  • Declaration of Compliance (“DoC”). This is another document that manufacturers are required to submit to the FAA. The DoC generally contains: (a) make and model of the UA or module; (b) serial number; (c) Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) identifier to demonstrate that any component that transmits radiofrequency energy has been certified by the FCC; (d) MOC (as attachment); (e) manufacturer declaration that it can demonstrate that the equipment complies with Part 89; and (f) statement that the FCC-compliant equipment was integrated into the UA or module without modification to such equipment.
  • Labeling. Manufacturers must ensure that a UA or broadcast module displays a label indicating that equipment meets the requirements of Part 89. The label must be in English and be legible, prominent, and permanently affixed to the UA or module.

Most of the production and design rules are effective as of September 16, 2022. But, manufacturers of Remote ID broadcast modules are subject to the MoC requirement, FAA inspection and audit procedures, and certain other regulations by April 21, 2021.

We Can Help!

Complying with all these regulations can be mind-boggling. The new requirements for UA operators are onerous enough, but the real pressure is on manufacturers. As shown herein, UA manufacturers are responsible for complying with all manner of design and production requirements and FAA flings. Moreover, manufacturers must ensure compliance with FCC equipment authorization rules. Any manufacturer who fails to comply with the applicable regulations will be subject to enforcement proceedings that often result in hefty fines and other market barriers. In other countries, authorities will confiscate non-compliant equipment and ban the marketing of a company’s products.  

The CommLaw Group has experienced attorneys who can help you ensure compliance with all FAA and FCC regulatory requirements, as well as related matters such as vendor contract review and representation in enforcement actions. Our firm also works with consultants in many countries around the world who can assist with international UA regulatory compliance and importation/customs requirements. 

For further information please contact Ronald E. Quirk at req@commlawgroup.com or (703) 714-1305.

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