13 Regulatory Updates

13.1 National Defense Authorization Act of 2024

Signed into Law on Dec 22, 2023

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2024 was signed into law on December 22, 2023, and includes significant new restrictions on the use of Federal Funds with drones.

Title 18, Subtitle B, Sections 1821-1833 will prohibit all Federal Agencies from purchasing any ‘adverse foreign drones’ and will sunset all operations of ‘adverse foreign drones’ in two (2) years. This restriction will also apply to all federal grants and contracts (Section 1825).


  1. IN GENERAL.—Beginning on the date that is two years after the date of the enactment of this Act, except as provided in subsection (b), no Federal funds awarded through a contract, grant, or cooperative agreement, or otherwise made available may be used—
  1. to procure a covered unmanned aircraft system that is manufactured or assembled by a covered foreign entity; or

  2. in connection with the operation of such a drone or unmanned aircraft system.

The legislation describes ‘adverse foreign drones’ as drones developed by any entity deemed a foreign threat, any drone manufactured in China or any drone manufactured by any Chinese entity (SEC. 1822).

The legislation also requires the development of a new federal-wide policy on the purchase of drones (including grants/contracts). Likely, this will be some version of the BlueSUAS list (vetted by DoD for security) that will be the new standard. We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, we’ve posted some of our recommended DJI-alternative platforms on our guide to selecting a drone.

13.2 FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2023

Still in in progress

After a 5-year reprieve, Congress is set to put together another FAA Reauthorization Bill. While these bills ensure funding to the FAA, they’re also used to make significant regulatory changes. The FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2012 introduced Section 333 exemptions and the pathway forward for Part 107. The FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2018 revamped regulations around the recreational use of drones and introduced academic and educational exemptions.

The first draft of the 2023 Reauthorization Bill was released on 6/9/2023 and looks like it takes a couple of steps forward, but also a couple of steps back for the UC’s drone activity.

A couple of quick notes on the current draft (6/9/2023):

  1. Adds elementary and secondary schools to the academic/educational exemption list.
  2. Requires a BVLOS NPRM to be published within four months and the final rule within 16 months.
  3. Requires the FAA to put together a UTM CONOPS within one year
  4. Explore the feasibility of Network-based RemoteID
  5. Waiver evaluation can explore using AI to improve response time; waiver evaluators may now consider property access and ownership during the evaluation process.
  6. Launches an FAA Aviation Infrastructure Inspection Pilot Program - bans all Chinese drones from participating
  7. Launches a critical infrastructure inspection grant program for governmental entities - bans all Chinese drones from participating
  8. Continues the FAA Workforce development grant program - bans all Chinese drones from participating

Mix-bag so far. Some reasonable steps to push the drone industry. Disappointing to see the proposal to prohibit using Chinese drones within the workforce development grant program. Low-cost drones are often made in China, making excellent training drones, especially in K-12 programs. DJI drones are still the dominant drones used in industry, so banning their participation in workforce development limits how much workforce development can occur if the participants can’t use the industry standards.

13.3 CA AB1016 Pest control operations: aircraft operations: private applicator

Signed by Gov (10/7/2023): Link to Bill

Utilizing a drone for pest control operations in CA has several hurdles. In addition to the FAA regulations (Obtaining a DOT waiver for over 55 lbs and Part 137 Certificates), to spray pesticides in California, you need to have either an Aerial Applicator license or an Unmanned Aerial Applicator License as a journeyman, apprentice, or vector control technician. Even obtaining an unmanned license takes a considerable amount of effort. Getting the entry-level journeyman’s certificate requires you to apprentice for at least one year and with 150 hours of flight experience.

AB1016 creates a new status of the Unmanned license as a private applicator, similar to the existing law for non-aerial applications.

  • 11902.1. An individual with a private applicator unmanned pest control aircraft pilot’s certificate shall only apply pesticides for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity on property owned, leased, or rented by the pilot or their employer.
  • 11902.5(b) To be eligible for an unmanned pest control aircraft pilot’s certificate under the status of private applicator, a pilot shall submit satisfactory documentary proof demonstrating the pilot’s completion of a program accredited by the director and possession of a valid private applicator certificate.

Under this law, a person may obtain a regular private applicator license through existing processes, then after completion of additional training developed by DPR, could apply for the new unmanned aerial license with status as a private applicator.

This is a significant advancement for the University of California - UC ANR has considerable training available for the Private Applicator Certification Exam, and with a bit of training, would be able to stand up a fleet of aerial applicators.

More information on the development of a training program is forthcoming.

13.4 The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST)

Starting in June 2021, all recreational flyers must pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and provide proof of test passage (the TRUST completion certificate) to the FAA or law enforcement (including campus police) upon request. The test is free for everyone and takes 20-30 minutes.

You may take The Recreational UAS Safety Test at any of the administrators found on the FAA’s website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/knowledge_test_updates/

The TRUST is divided into two sections:

  • The first section provides the information needed to pass the test.
  • The second section is a series of multiple-choice questions. You cannot fail the test. If you answer a question incorrectly, you will be provided with information on why the answer you chose was incorrect and will be promoted to try again.

Upon completion of the TRUST, you will receive a completion certificate. The certificate never expires; however, if you lose your certificate, you will need to retake the test and obtain a new certificate. Neither the test administrator nor the FAA will maintain personally identifiable information about the recreational flyer, so it is impossible to re-print or re-issue your original certificate. We recommend uploading your certificate to UC Drones so that you have a backup copy available.

13.5 NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS)

The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is a voluntary, confidential, non-punitive safety reporting system that receives safety reports from pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, cabin crew, maintenance technicians, and now UAS operators. Anyone involved in UAS operations can file a NASA ASRS report to describe close calls, hazards, violations, and safety-related incidents.

ASRS has been an essential part of the aviation safety culture for over 45 years, collecting and analyzing over 1.7 million safety reports. All reports are held in strict confidence by NASA and de-identified by ASRS Safety Analysts. The resulting anonymous aviation safety data and lessons learned are shared with the aviation and UAS communities to prevent accidents and help make UAS operations safer.

When in doubt, fill it out! https://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/report/caveat.html?formType=uas

13.6 Regulations Update 2021 Quick Answers

On December 27, 2020, the DOT and the FAA released the final version of two highly anticipated regulations. The new rules will require Remote Identification (Remote ID) of drones and allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions.

The FAA press release has links to the final rules and executive summaries.

We’ll be updating this page with Frequently Asked Questions.

  1. What is the new Remote Pilot Certificate Renewal Program?

    Starting April 6, 2021, the new free and online Remote Pilot Certificate Program will be available through the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) website here: https://www.faasafety.gov/default.aspx. It will replace the certificate renewal test (Unmanned General - Recurrent: UGR). This new renewal program will take about 2 hours to complete and include a multiple-choice exam. Completing this renewal program will allow RPICs to take advantage of the regulatory changes enabling flight operations at night and over people with qualified drones.

  2. Will this stop my current flight operations?

    Absolutely not. Any current operation may continue as previously approved. The new regulations will not impose any new restrictions until September 2023. Further guidance will be provided as we get closer.

  3. Do I need to buy something to be compliant?

    Honestly, probably not. Many drones are a firmware update away from compliance, and mandatory compliance will not be until Summer 2023. For those drones that cannot be made Remote ID compliant via firmware update, expect to see Remote ID retrofit kits on the market within the next year or so.

  4. Should I buy a Remote ID-compliant drone?

    Remote ID compliant drones are readily available now. The full list can be found here.

  5. Is there a difference between a Standard Remote ID drone and one that is retrofitted?

    Yes, but the difference will likely be insignificant for most users. Retrofitted drones will be prohibited from Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight operations. While many researchers hope to expand to BVLOS flight operations, FAA waivers will continue to be challenging for a handful more years. If you want to expand to BVLOS flight operations, consider waiting until Standard Remote ID drones are on the market.

  6. When can I start flying over people?

    Flight authorizations for drones in Category 1 (Under 250 grams with rotor protections) will be allowed as soon as the Final Rule is enacted (March). Flight authorizations in Category 2 and 3 require an FAA certificate to be issued to the manufacturer, which may take additional time. As of 2023, only one model has received Category 2 or 3 authorization. The full list can be found here

13.7 The Categories of Drones

The revision of Part 107 regulations and the introduction of Remote ID regulations have created 15 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems categories.

Standard Remote ID Broadcast/Retrofit Remote ID No Remote ID
Cat 0 - Not Eligible for Flights Over People No flights over people. BVLOS (with waiver) No flights over people. VLOS only No flights over people. VLOS only. FRIA only (2023)
Cat 1 - < 250 g + rotor protections Flights over open-air assemblies of people. BVLOS (with waiver) Flights over open-air assemblies of people. VLOS only Over some people allowed. No flights over open-air assemblies of people. VLOS only. FRIA only (2023)
Cat 2 - FAA cert - < 11 lb ft KE + rotor protections Flights over open-air assemblies of people. BVLOS (with waiver) Flights over open-air assemblies of people. VLOS only Over some people allowed. No flights over open-air assemblies of people. FRIA only (2023)
Cat 3 - FAA cert - < 25 lb ft KE + rotor protections Flights over open-air assemblies of people in access-controlled locations. BVLOS (with waiver). Flights over open-air assemblies of people in access-controlled locations. VLOS only. Over some people allowed. No flights over open-air assemblies of people. VLOS only. FRIA only (2023)
Cat 4 - FAA cert – Part 21 Airworthiness Flights over open-air assemblies of people. BVLOS (with waiver) Flights over open-air assemblies of people. VLOS only. Over some people allowed. No flights over open-air assemblies of people.VLOS only. FRIA only (2023).