Today marks the ‘effective date’ that some pertinent Part 107 and Remote ID rules become active in the United States. Notably, this includes the Operations Over People rule. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first published their Notice for Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Remote ID) on December 29, 2020.
Simply put, Remote ID is the concept that every drone should have a ‘digital license plate.’ This creates a uniform system for authorities to track who is operating a specific unmanned aerial vehicle, through a serial number, at any given time. The objective is to increase transparency and improve the public’s opinion of drones. Most importantly, the FAA want to ease certain restrictions and make more complex operations possible for remote pilots.
Government agencies aren’t known for rolling out new policies in a timely manner. The finalization of Remote ID took significantly longer than expected and the recurrent test, a free online exam that allows current Part 107 pilots to renew their certification, and operate at night, was delayed two times before finally becoming available on April 6th.
There is a lot of information about current changes, and what’s to come in the next few years, in online forums and on aviation blogs. It can be a lot to process. DPReview aims to make sense of the changes that become effective today and what to expect for the future.
After two separate delays, the FAA free released Online Recurrent Training on April 6th. If you’ve taken it and passed already, privileges for Night Operations become effective today. For Part 107-certified pilots, this also means there is no longer any need to take an in-person recurrent exam at a testing center.
This new system will save remote pilots anywhere from $99 to $150 per renewal fee. There are 45 multiple choice questions based on information presented from each section of the training. It’s self-graded and you won’t pass until you’ve answered 100% of the questions correctly.
For Part 107-certified pilots…there is no longer any need to take an in-person recurrent exam at a testing center.
Once you’ve passed, you’ll be presented with a printable certificate and card. The card must be carried with you whenever you fly. If you lose or misplace either, you can log back in, locate “Print Course Certificates,” and reprint them. This is much more convenient than requesting a replacement card from the FAA and waiting a few weeks for it to arrive in the mail. It’s important to note that you’ll want to enroll in the ALC-677 training for Non-61 Pilots. It’s only available through the FAA’s website.
One of the benefits of passing the recurrent exam is that you’ll be able to fly at night without obtaining a 107.29 Daylight Waiver. The training covers best practices for flying in the dark and covers which strobe lights help give you three statute miles of visibility. If you already have the waiver and have passed your recurrent exam in the past 24 months, you can hold off on the online training. You can also take it for free anytime you’d like.
As of today, anyone who has passed the Online Recurrent Training can take advantage of flying at night without a 107.29 waiver.
The recurrent training must be renewed every 24 calendar months. For example, if you took your exam and passed today, you have until the end of April, 2023 to retake and pass it to remain current. If you aren’t Part 107-certifed yet, you’ll still need to seek out study guides and take an initial exam in person. Mentioned above, as of today, anyone who has passed the Online Recurrent Training can take advantage of flying at night without a 107.29 waiver.
The FAA will effectively terminate all 107.29 waivers by May 17, 2021. If you have a 107.41 Airspace Authorization, which allows you to fly at night in controlled airspace, it will no longer be valid. The FAA hasn’t yet announced how they will address the issue, as of this writing.
More new rules that go into effect today
Today, regardless if you’ve taken and passed the new Online Recurrent Training or not, any certified remote pilot can take part in Operations Over People (OOP), and Operations Over Moving Vehicles (OMV) without a 107.39 OOP or 107.145 OMV waiver. You can still apply for the latter two waivers if you want to fly outside the guidelines imposed by the new rules.
In order to fly OOP or OMV without a waiver, you have to operate a Category 1 drone. This is defined as a drone under .55lbs (250g) that ‘does not contain any exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being.’ The last part is imperative. If the drone isn’t equipped with a propeller cage or guards, the pilot will be in violation of the law. Another point to remember with OMV is that you can fly sideways over moving cars, not with them in the same general direction they’re traveling.
While the DJI Mavic Mini and Mini 2 seem like the obvious models to carry out these operations, placing a propeller cage or guards on them will push the overall takeoff weight over the 250g requirement. DJI’s Tello drone is one option. Another could be FIMI’s X8 Mini drone which weighs 245g with a ‘Pro’ battery installed. Undoubtedly, there will be individuals and manufacturers working one new iterations of drones that meet these new requirements.
|DJI’s Tello, XIMI’s X8 Mini, and Cinewhoop drones are possible candidates for drones that can fly OOP and OMV without Remote ID built in.|
What to expect in the next few years
Many of DPReview’s readers have posted questions about what new Remote ID rules will mean for upgrading their drones when the time comes. In an official post on the manufacturer’s site, Brendan Schulman, their VP of Policy and Legal Affairs, acknowledges that new Remote ID requirements will be implemented over the next three years and ‘complying with them will likely be as simple as updating your drone software with a free upgrade.’
Drones will not be required to transmit a Remote ID signal until October, 2023. Any current and future models released before that month will need a simple upgrade. He also states that new drones built after October, 2022, will have Remote ID requirements built in. The FAA also allows and add-on module to satisfy their requirements and those should be available for models long out of production.
DJI has currently installed ADS-B technology in their newer drones that weigh over 250g. This alerts the remote pilot when a manned aircraft is nearby so they can yield the right of way. One more expected release in the first quarter of 2023 is larger drones that fall into Categories 2-4 and can operate OOP or OMV. It’s too far off to speculate what they’ll look like but they will have to comply with the FAA’s requirements.
Wrapping it up
Hopefully these new rules and regulations makessense, as confusing as it may seem initially. We will continue to update you as the FAA releases more information over the coming weeks, months, and years.