FAA Rule Changes Could Enable Remote IDs for Drones

The proposed rule change has been in the works for more than a year, and it would allow law enforcement, federal security agencies and the FAA to remotely identify drones that fly through their jurisdictions.

by Shelly Bradbury, The Denver Post / January 3, 2020

(TNS) — As a band of unknown drones flies across northeast Colorado and western Nebraska, the Federal Aviation Administration is proposing a new rule that would require most drones to be identifiable remotely.

The proposed rule change, announced Thursday, has been in the works for more than a year, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email Monday. The proposal would allow law enforcement, federal security agencies and the FAA to remotely identify drones that fly through their jurisdictions, the FAA said in a statement.

Such technology would prevent a repeat of the ongoing mystery in Northeast Colorado, where residents in five counties have spotted large drones flying in grid-like patterns in the evenings and nights for about two weeks.

Residents have called local authorities to report seeing groups of six to 10 drones hovering or cruising through the region between 7 and 10 p.m., usually flying a couple hundred feet in the air. The drones have also been spotted in Deuel County, Nebraska, authorities said.

No one has come forward as the operator of the drones, prompting widespread speculation about their purpose. Several companies and government agencies have said the drones don’t belong to them, including the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort Carson, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Paragon Geophysical Services, the U.S. Geological Survey, Amazon and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The FAA is working with local law enforcement on the case, but also hasn’t identified the drone operator, Gregor said Monday.

Local sheriffs told The Denver Post that the drones don’t appear to be “malicious” and that they’re likely not breaking any laws. Flight plans are not required to be filed with the FAA unless the drone pilots are flying in restricted airspace.

The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days, according to the FAA, which said the change would help drones better “integrate” into the nation’s airspace. Nearly 1.5 million drones and 160,000 remote pilots are registered with the FAA, the agency said in a statement.

Matt Quinn, owner of Great Lakes Drone Co., which is one of only a handful of companies in the nation that have been granted permission from the FAA to fly multiple small drones at night, said he’s puzzled by the reports out of Colorado.

“It’s the talk of the drone community,” he said.

©2019 The Denver Post. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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