On April 21, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) long awaited final rules regarding the use of drones took effect and are a significant step toward their eventual use for widespread commercial deliveries.
Previously, small drones were only allowed to fly over people who were directly participating in their operation, located under a covered structure, or inside a stationary vehicle — unless operators had obtained a waiver from the FAA.
The new rules not only allow small drones to fly over people both during the day and at night, but in some circumstances, allow drones to fly over moving vehicles. As a safety precaution, small drones cannot have any exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin and must be equipped with anti-collision lights for at-night operation.
The new rules also eliminate requirements that drones be connected to the Internet to transmit location data; however, they now require that drones broadcast remote ID messages via radio frequency broadcast. Drone manufacturers have 18 months to begin producing drones with remote ID, and operators will have an additional year to provide Remote ID.
Companies have been racing to create drone fleets to speed deliveries. As of December 2020, the United States had over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots. With the implementation of these new FAA rules, that number will likely increase in the coming years.