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The FAA wants to track most drones: Here's how it will work

(Image credit: DJI)

The Federal Aviation Administration unveiled a proposal that would make it easier to remotely track drones and unmanned aerial vehicles in the air. The rules, which would apply to all drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds, are intended to make it easier to identify UAVs, especially remotely operated commercial drones.

Under the proposed rules, drones would have to broadcast their ID and location information (similar to a transponder on a manned aircraft), as well as transmit that same data through an internet connection, most likely via a handheld controller. If a drone is designed to operate no more than 400 feet from a controller or base station, then it would only be subject to the latter requirement.

The proposal states that it would expect all drones to be compliant with the new rule three years after it goes into effect. Drones built for use in the U.S. would be required to comply within two years, while older drones would have an extra year to meet the standard. 

The new rules are meant to help usher in more commercial delivery drones, such as the type that Amazon is testing; it wouldn't do to have thousands of package drones flying around without anyone knowing where they are.

We're also likely to see design changes in many consumer drones. Companies who can't add the chip to legacy UAVs will have to limit their drones to a 400-foot radius, and we'll see more drones like the DJI Mavic Mini, whose 249-gram weight was meant to skirt the FAA's existing regulations for registration.