Get ready to stick some ID on the outside of your drone — starting February 23rd, a new FAA rule will require all small unmanned aircraft to have their registration markings visible on the outside of their body, so law enforcement can easily find their owners.
In a preview document published at the Federal Register (spotted by Bloomberg), the FAA says the move is in response to terrorism fears, specifically “the risk a concealed explosive device poses to first responders who must open a compartment to find the small unmanned aircraft’s registration number.”
Currently, US law requires that you register certain classes of drones with the FAA and mark them with your ID number — yes, even though drone registration was successfully challenged in court, Trump later signed it into law — but the FAA has always let you stick that sticker somewhere hidden, like inside your drone’s battery compartment. Not anymore.
Technically, the rule is currently just in preview at the Federal Register, won’t be published until tomorrow, and citizens will have a 30-day comment period to respond. But the FAA argues the need is urgent enough that it’s firing off the rule just 10 days after publication.
The FAA might let you fly at night and over people, but not right away
That’s not the only drone-related news in preview at the Federal Register today, by the way. Though the FAA is still poised to majorly relax its rules about flying your drone at night and over crowds of people, the agency now says it won’t be doing that until it can figure out a system to let it remotely track and identify drones at a distance, something the industry is also working on itself (here’s what we learned about DJI’s Aeroscope), and it’s asking the public to comment on what sorts of performance and legal restrictions it should place on drones before they’re allowed to do those things.
For nighttime, where the FAA says it’s never had a reported accident, the agency is considering that operators might merely need to complete some extra training and have a drone with a light that’s visible three miles away. But for flying over crowds, the FAA thinks it might create three new categories of drones, with ones weighing 0.55 pounds or less being freely able to fly over people, while heavier drones might need to have speed, altitude, location, and injury “severity threshold” requirements so they’re safe enough to use.