Summary

The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) released two long-awaited rules expanding the operations of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones.

The Upshot

  • These rules will finally permit for journalists, under certain circumstances, to fly drones over people and at night. 
  • Since the FAA began permitting drone flights in the United States in 2016, journalists have hoped for expanded authority to gather aerial news at night and over crowds. 
  • The rules will become effective in the early part of 2021. 

The Bottom Line

While journalists did not get everything they asked for in the rules, the loosened regulations, along with newsrooms’ adherence to the FAA’s safety requirements, will provide many enhanced opportunities for aerial news gathering.


FULL ALERT

The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) has released two long-awaited rules expanding the operations of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones.

These rules will finally permit for journalists, under certain circumstances, to fly drones over people and at night. At the same time, the new rules will require most drones to broadcast an identifying signal.

Since the FAA began permitting drone flights in the United States in 2016, journalists have hoped for expanded authority to gather aerial news at night and over crowds. The new rules permit various levels of freedom to fly over people depending on the weight of a drone and the energy released when it impacts with people. In certain circumstances, drones will be permitted to move over the heads of crowds of people and over moving cars, although the rules prohibit “sustained operations,” including circling or hovering.

The rules will also require that drone pilots undergo updated training before they can operate at night, and drones flying at night will need to have anti-collision lights.

At the same time as expanded flight rules, the FAA will also require all drones to have a “digital license plate” so that they can be identified in flight, and they will need to broadcast certain identifying information.

The rules will become effective in the early part of 2021. 

While journalists did not get everything they asked for in the rules, the loosened regulations, along with newsrooms’ adherence to the FAA’s safety requirements, will provide many enhanced opportunities for aerial news gathering.


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