Yesterday, the FAA published a new rule to the Federal Register which modifies the current labeling requirement for sUAS aircraft.
Since December 2015 (with a brief period of legal confusion between May 2017 and July 2018 withstanding,) the FAA has required all drones between .55lb. and 55lb. be registered and for the registration number to be marked somewhere on the aircraft, ‘that is accessible without the use of tools.’ A new law published yesterday will change that.
Where the previous law only required the marking to be somewhere accessible without tools, the new law goes a step further and requires them to be on the exterior of the aircraft. Most drone pilots already put the markings on the outside of the aircraft so this won’t impact them at all. However, there are some who prefer to put the markings in a battery compartment for cosmetic purposes or because they worry about stickers falling off in flight.
Ultimately, this is a pretty minor change that adds little (if any) complexity or cost to the marking process. That is why the FAA was able to make a quick change without requiring public comment. If it’s such a minor change, you might be asking yourself, “Why did they go to the trouble of changing it at all?”
Well, the answer lies in feedback from Police, Fire Departments, and other first responders who have concerns about ‘concealed explosive devices.’
Essentially, this is a move designed to protect our first responders, which I think we can all support. Should a police officer need to find the drone registration information, they might be required to remove the battery and in doing so, trigger a hidden explosive element within the drone. The idea here is that with the registration number on the exterior, law enforcement can use other means (robot, binoculars, a scope, etc..) to read the markings and identify the owner/registrant of the drone.
The law normally dictates that laws go into effect 30 days after being published in the Federal Register. However, in this case, the FAA has determined that ‘good cause’ exists to expedite the process. Therefore, the rule is scheduled to go into effect on February 23, 2019. However, the Register says February 25th, which might be why the FAA has removed all social media posts regarding the new law (in order to change the dates on the images.)
Either way, if you have your markings in the battery compartment, you might want to go ahead and find somewhere else to put them 🙂