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FAA reauthorization bill establishes new rules for recreational drones

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On October 5, 2018, the President signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. The Act establishes new conditions for recreational use of drones and immediately repeals the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.

Summary of the new rules

Per the Act, a person may still operate a small unmanned aircraft without specific certification or operating authority from the FAA if the operation adheres to all of the following limitations:

  • The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.

  • The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the FAA.

  • The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.

  • The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.

  • In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

  • In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

  • The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.

  • The aircraft is registered and marked in accordance with chapter 441 of this title and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.

Note: Unmanned aircraft operations that do not conform to the above limitations must comply with all statutes and regulations generally applicable to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.

The new rules are’t going into effect yet

At this time, the FAA is asking is asking recreational pilots to continue to following the current policies and guidelines until they have time to implement this new legislation:

“The agency is evaluating the impacts of this change in the law and how implementation will proceed. The Reauthorization Act cannot be fully implemented immediately, please continue to follow all current policies and guidance with respect to recreational use of drones.”


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News

FAA requiring drones to be marked externally by February 25

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The FAA recently posted the External Marking Requirement for Small Unmanned Aircraft rule in the Federal Register to require drone owners to display their FAA registration number on an outside surface of the drone. This new rule goes into effect on February 25, 2019. All drones must be marked externally when flying outdoors by that date.

Reason for this change

Members of the law enforcement and security communities have expressed concern that the current rule, which allows registration numbers to be marked in an enclosed compartment, presents an imminent risk of harm to first responders. When responding to a security incident involving a drone, first responders seek to identify the owner or operator. Requiring first responders to physically handle a drone to obtain the registration number poses an unnecessary safety and security risk to those individuals, as well as to others in the immediate proximity to the drone, because of the potential for the drone to conceal an explosive device in an enclosed compartment (such as the battery compartment), designed to detonate upon opening. Requiring drone owners to place the registration number on an external surface of the drone helps to mitigate this risk because a first responder can view the number without handling the drone, or by using other technologies that allow for remote viewing of the drone’s external surface.

Drone marking requirements

This interim final rule does not change the original acceptable methods of external marking, nor does it specify a particular external surface on which the registration number must be placed. The requirement is that it can be seen upon visual inspection of the drone’s exterior.

Make your voice heard

The FAA has issued this new requirement as an Interim Final Rule. That means the rule will take effect while also inviting the public to share their comments. The FAA issues interim final rules when delaying implementation of the rule would be impractical, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. In this case, the FAA determined the importance of mitigating the risk to first responders outweighs the minimal inconvenience this change may impose on small drone owners, and justifies implementation without a prior public comment period.

The FAA will consider all comments submitted by the public here to determine if the provisions of the ultimate Final Rule should be changed. The 30-day comment period ends on March 15, 2019.


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Accessories

DJI Smart Controller with built-in screen

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DJI just released their new DJI Smart Controller at CES 2019. It features a ultra-bright built-in screen and is compatible with all Mavic 2 models and other DJI drones that use OcuSync 2.0.

Main features

  • Crystal-clear live feeds

  • Ultra-bright 5.5-inch screen (viewable in direct sunlight)

  • Intuitive controls

  • Android operating system

  • 3rd party app support

  • HDMI output

  • Easy file sharing

  • 2.5 hour battery life

Price and availability

The DJI Smart Controller retails for $649 USD and is currently available in the DJI Store in select regions. If it’s not currently available where you live, you can click the In Stock Reminder button to receiver an email when it’s available.

Take a closer look

Here are a few reviews from people received the DJI Smart Controller prior to DJI’s announcement:


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Deals

10% off Mavic 2 with educational discount

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DJI is currently offering 10% off of the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom (and some other products) with their educational discount. To take advantage of this offer, you need to be a student, educator, or academic research staff member and have an approved academic email address. See more details here.


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News

DJI launches Download Center to make software easier to find

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The new DJI Download Center is a centralized repository of software for all of DJI’s products. The following downloads can be found in the Download Center:

  • DJI mobile apps (DJI GO, DJI Pilot, DJI Mimo, etc.)

  • DJI Assistant 2

  • Transcoders (for editing video footage)

  • Drivers

  • And all of the other software that drives DJI’s products

You can also find the latest version of each application (helpful when checking if you’re on the latest version), mobile device requirements, and release notes for a list of recent changes and fixes.


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Deals

2018 DJI Winter Sale

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DJI Store deals

From now through January 2nd, DJI is running a Winter Sale for up to 30% off of DJI drones and accessories. See a complete list of deals here in the DJI Store.

Note: If you’re going to purchase a Mavic Pro Platinum during this sale, then don’t forget to use one of these coupons to get an extra 5% off.

Deals from other DJI dealers

There are lots of authorized DJI dealers competing to sell their stock of DJI drones too. So, don’t forget to check out their daily deals when you’re ready to buy. You can find a current list of the best deals from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Newegg, and more here:


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Events

Watch the DJI Osmo Pocket live release event

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The DJI Osmo Pocket was announced during a live event for a select group of invitees in New York City on November 28th. The event was not live streamed on DJI’s website (like usual) or by any YouTubers who showed up for the event.

Watch a replay of the live event footage

Rick from Drone Valley was one of the lucky people to be invited to the event. He got a front seat and recorded the entire event. Watch it below or start here to skip Rick’s introduction thoughts about the Osmo Pocket and jump right to the point where the live event starts in his video.

Update (12/6/2018)

DJI posted their own version of this video here on their YouTube channel:


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