Editor’s note: The FAA originally posted an effective date of Feb. 23 for the new rule. It has since changed to Feb. 25.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a new rule requiring FAA-issued registration numbers to be placed on an outside surface of a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
Drone owners and operators may no longer put registration numbers in an interior compartment, the agency says. The rule, posted in the Federal Register, is effective on Feb. 25. The markings must be in place for any flight after that date.
When the FAA first required registration of small drones in 2015, the agency mandated that the registration marking 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, the FAA explains.
Subsequently, law enforcement officials and the FAA’s interagency security partners have 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.
This 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. The requirement is that it can be seen upon visual inspection of the aircraft’s exterior, the FAA says.
The FAA has issued this requirement as an interim final rule – a rule that takes effect while also inviting public comment. The FAA issues interim final rules when delaying implementation of the rule would be impractical, unnecessary or contrary to the public interest. In this case, the agency has determined the importance of mitigating the risk to first responders outweighs the minimal inconvenience this change may impose on UAS owners, and it justifies implementation without a prior public comment period, according to the FAA.
The agency will consider comments from the public and then review any submissions to determine if the provisions of the final rule should be changed. The 30-day comment period will end on March 15. To submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for “RIN 2120-AL32.”
Separately, the FAA has now posted 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 Thursday and will end April 15.