2021 UAS law updates - key takeaways:
- FAA announces most significant regulatory changes for the U.S. drone industry to date
- The Remote Identification rule provides for identifying drones in flight and the location of their control stations (pilot)
- The Operations Over People rule applies to pilots who fly under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.
- The ability to fly over people and over moving vehicles varies depending on the level of risk a small drone poses to people on the ground.
- Additionally, the rule allows operations at night under certain conditions.
- Many states enact new or amend drone laws as UAS usage expands
Last year many legislative issues took a backseat while the nation (and the world) grappled with Covid. Even though we are dealing with variants and adjusting to some sense of normalcy, covid has accelerated society’s digital and technological adoptions at rates that would otherwise take a decade.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the many advantages drones offer: they can ensure minimized human interactions, reach otherwise inaccessible areas, and facilitate the delivery of medical supplies, groceries, and other goods (Chamola et al., 2020).
In the USA, following the devastating impact of the COVID-19, various steps are being taken by different U.S. bodies to introduce drone technology in the country. The Small UAV Coalition has filed a petition for expedited Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approvals to allow drones to deliver medical supplies.
While there are still roadblocks to a full UAS integration, this year the FAA passed major rulings to move us closer to integrating drones into the national airspace.
Recent FAA rulings: Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft. Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People
Effective date: April 21, 2021
On April 21, 2021 Final rules for remote identification of drones and expanding UAS operations went into effect. Seems the FAA is taking steps to integrate drones into our airspace with their new rulings that allow for the following (under certain conditions): The operation of unmanned aircraft systems over people, over moving vehicles, and nighttime operations.
“Today’s rules are an important first step in safely and securely managing the growing use of drones in our airspace, though more work remains on the journey to full integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS),” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
2021 New U.S. state drone laws:
- SB173 (Act 140) (approved February 23, 2021)
Added these facilities to “critical infrastructure” definition: A food processing or manufacturing facility; or A correctional or detention facility
- SB44 (Chapter No. 2021-165) (effective July 1, 2021)
Expands the authorized uses of drones by law enforcement agencies and other specified entities for specified purposes
- HB265 (effective June 14, 2021)
Adds critical infrastructures and grain elevators/storage facilities to “targeted facilities”
Increases penalties relating to unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft system
- HB587 (effective August 1, 2021)
Created the Louisiana Drone Advisory Committee
- HB222 (effective August 1, 2021)
Adds unmanned aircraft systems or drones to video voyeurism relative to certain sex offenses against minors
- SB659 (effective May 5, 2021)
Created the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Development Act of 2021 which established the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission as the clearinghouse for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
- HB2481 (effective September 25, 2021)
Prohibits law enforcement agencies from receiving armed or weaponized drones from the federal government.
- SB74 (approved February 22, 2021)
Revises violations of privacy to include using a drone
- SB258/HB924 - Pub. Ch. 462 (effective May 18, 2021)
Revises various provisions of the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act. - Amends TCA Title 39 by expanding law enforcement use of drones
- HB1758 (effective September 1, 2021)
Relates to law enforcement's use of force by means of a drone.
- SB149 (effective September 1, 2021)
Adds the following facilities to “critical infrastructure” definition: a public or private airport depicted in any current aeronautical chart published by the Federal Aviation Administration, and a military installation owned or operated by or for the federal government, the state, or another governmental entity.
- HB1379 (effective July 1, 2021)
Established an unpiloted aircraft system state coordinator and program funding source
- SB237 (effective June 22, 2021)
Relates to the operation of drones over correctional institutions, outlines exceptions for authorized UAS use over prisons.
The FAA: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
Chamola, V. Hassija, V. Gupta and M. Guizani, "A Comprehensive Review of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Role of IoT, Drones, AI, Blockchain, and 5G in Managing its Impact," in IEEE Access, vol. 8, pp. 90225-90265, 2020, doi: 10.1109/ACCESS.2020.2992341.