FAA's final drone rules start taking effect April 21st

You won't see everything fall into place until 2023, however.

James Trew/Engadget

The FAA just set dates for when its tightened drone rules will take effect, and some measures will kick in sooner than others. The regulator has revealed that Remote ID and Operations Over People rules will start taking effect as of April 21st, 2021. From then on, you'll have to list the serial number of any Remote ID drone or add-on module in your registration. You can fly small (under 0.55lbs) drones over people if they have protected blades, but you can't conduct sustained flight over open-air assemblies unless you comply with Remote ID.

Other, heavier drones have stricter operational and performance requirements, such as limits on the amount of force they'd deliver in a crash. Category 3 drones (those that deliver no more than 25 foot-pounds of energy) can't fly over assemblies regardless of Remote ID, and can't fly over people unless they're in a restricted area and know about possible drone flights. Category 4 drones above that limit need airworthiness certificates, maintenance and inspections.

There is some breathing room, however. Drone makers have to comply with Remote ID requirements starting September 16th, 2022, while all pilots will have to meet Remote ID requirements (or fly within limitations) a year later on September 16th, 2023. These windows are six months shorter than originally planned, but give time for both operators and drone producers time to adapt.

The final rules won't please everyone. Alphabet's drone delivery company Wing has worried about privacy, noting that broadcast Remote IDs could let people infer sensitive data like home addresses. Wing also worried the broadcasts could make it hard to establish drone traffic control systems. Still, the changes are coming — and the dates at least help everyone plan their next steps.