FAA Updates Drone Marking Requirements and Airspace Restrictions

Drones will be treated more like airplanes with registration numbers posted on the exterior of each machine. DJI photo

The FAA's latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in yesterday's Federal Register will soon require drone operators to prominently display their FAA registration number on the outside of their machines, just like those on regular aircraft, only smaller. Owners and operators may no longer place or write registration numbers in an interior compartment. The markings must be in place for any flight after February 25, the effective date of the rule. This interim final rule does not change the original acceptable methods of external marking, nor does it specify a particular external surface on which the registration number must be placed, only that it can be seen upon visual inspection of the aircraft's exterior.

The agency issued this requirement as an Interim Final Rule that takes effect while also inviting public comment. The agency will accept comments through March 15, 2019 and plans to update the rule if needed based upon industry feedback. The agency issues some interim final rules when delaying implementation would be impractical, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.

Additionally, the FAA proposed new rules to let drones fly routinely at night and over people and to further integrate them safely into the nation's airspace. The comment period for these proposals begins today and will end April 15.

When the FAA first required registration of small drones in 2015, the agency asked that the registration markings be readily accessible and maintained in readable condition. The rule granted some flexibility by permitting the marking to be placed in an enclosed compartment, such as a battery case, if it could be accessed without the use of tools. Subsequently, law enforcement officials and the FAA’s interagency security partners expressed concerns about the risk a concealed explosive device might pose to first responders upon opening a compartment to find a drone’s registration number. The FAA believes this action will enhance safety and security by allowing a person to view the unique identifier directly without handling the drone.

The FAA will consider comments from the public on the drone registration rule through March 15, 2019. Comments can be submitted by searching for RIN 2120-AL32 here.

Rob MarkAuthor
Rob Mark is an award-winning journalist, business jet pilot, flight instructor, and blogger.

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