May 31, 2024

2024 FAA Reauthorization and Drones: What You Need to Know

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Skydio X2 inspecting bridge

In May 2024, the President signed into law the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, which reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years. This legislation charts the course for continued American leadership in global aviation. Drone technology occupies a central role in the new law, as Congressional leaders are committed to unleashing uncrewed operations safely and effectively. This blog highlights key features of the law that will move the industry forward and help you scale your drone program.

Skydio X10 zooms in on details underneath a freeway over water in Florida.
Skydio X10 zooms in on details underneath a freeway over water in Florida.

The First Federal Grant Program for Drone-Based Inspections

One of the most important provisions in the new legislation is the DIIG Act, which is short for the Drone Infrastructure Inspection Grant program. The DIIG Act creates the first grant program to help state and local governments establish and expand drone infrastructure inspection programs. Nearly every American state and hundreds of cities rely on drones to inspect the infrastructure on which our society and economy rely. The DIIG Act promises to supercharge and accelerate those efforts, enabling state and local agencies to scale programs designed to enhance the safety and resilience of our critical infrastructure in a way that protects workers, benefits the environment, and curbs costs.

Many state Departments of Transportation (DOT) have begun to realize the cost savings associated with drone inspection programs. A 2019 study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials found an almost 75% savings when using drones for inspections compared to traditional methods.

WATCH: Alaska DOT uses Skydio drones to improve public safety and infrastructure inspections.
WATCH: Alaska DOT uses Skydio drones to improve public safety and infrastructure inspections.

The DIIG program is a competitive grant program that will provide grants to state and local government agencies to initiate and expand drone inspection programs. Funds can be used for various purposes, including purchasing U.S.- and allied-made drones, hiring personnel, and general program support. To ensure agencies have a meaningful stake in the program, applicants will share 50% of the costs with the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will announce further details on the timing and contents of applications. If your agency is interested in submitting an application involving Skydio products, we would love to hear from you. Skydio has partnered with state and local governments on other federal transportation grant programs to help them win millions in federal funding to expand their drone programs. We look forward to working with DOTs, counties, and other agencies as this program begins.

Funding the Next Generation: Drone Education and Workforce Training

In addition to funding state and local drone programs, the legislation creates a separate but related $20M program to accelerate drone workforce education. This program builds on an initiative in the last FAA Reauthorization Act that invited community colleges and universities to establish drone training programs but failed to provide funding. The new legislation fixes that problem, devoting $20M to help those efforts take flight.

The US DOT and the DIIG Act will administer funding for this program. Skydio is proud to partner with community colleges and universities across the country. If you are interested in applying for this grant to equip your students with Skydio drones, we’d love to speak with you.

A "Pilot-less" Program to Inspect Aviation Infrastructure

While the DIIG Act helps to scale state and local drone inspection programs, another provision in the legislation directs USDOT to begin its own drone-supported infrastructure inspection program. Much of the infrastructure this pilot program will cover are facilities and assets that are critical for traditional passenger and cargo aviation, including FAA radar stations, communication facilities and navigational aids. In that way, a new aviation technology--drones--will support legacy aviation programs critical to America’s economy and way of life.

3D Model of a F-15 Fighter Jet captured by Skydio X10.
3D Model of a F-15 Fighter Jet captured by Skydio X10.

Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations

In a historic step toward a new era of aviation, the Reauthorization Act directs the FAA to issue a proposed rule enabling drone operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The proposed rule must be released in September 2024.

Drawing on lessons learned, the law opens the door for BVLOS regulations that:

  1. Establish operating rules. Operating rules are the key to expanding BVLOS operations. These rules will clarify how and where to conduct operations, eliminating the current need to request waivers and exemptions to Part 107 and Part 91 rules for every BVLOS operation.
  2. Streamline the acceptance process for uncrewed aircraft and supporting equipment. Instead of relying on slow-moving, resource-intensive FAA processes that are more appropriate for passenger-carrying aircraft, such as type certification, many UAS could be approved for BVLOS based on a manufacturer’s declaration of compliance to industry consensus technical standards. That low-friction, expedited process will allow our customers to conduct advanced operations more easily than ever before.
  3. Consider varying levels of automated control and management of UAS flights. Highly automated UAS can offer additional safety and significant operational efficiencies for enterprises, public safety agencies, and state departments of transportation. Skydio autonomy enables non-expert pilots to fly safely in complex environments and critical situations. With additional capabilities likely to be enabled under the new rules, a single operator can remotely manage the operations of multiple drones across different operating areas.
Skydio X2 launches from the charging dock to perform a scheduled inspection mission.
Skydio X2 launches from the charging dock to perform a scheduled inspection mission.

Electronic Conspicuity in Low Altitude Airspace

The ability of drones to detect and avoid passenger-carrying aircraft is critically important for safe operations in low-altitude airspace below 400 feet. For years, companies have touted the efficacy of various sensors, from radars to acoustic solutions. However, those solutions are expensive and have serious shortcomings. A promising technological solution that is both cost-effective and relatively simple to implement is ‘electronic conspicuity’ (EC). This term describes a range of technologies that transmit an aircraft's position to other airspace users operating compatible equipment. These devices can also receive and display position information, which can be used to alert pilots to conflicting traffic. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is an existing technology used in aviation that enables aircraft to determine their position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcast it, along with other relevant information such as altitude, speed, and identity, to air traffic controllers and other nearby aircraft. FAA regulations require aircraft flying in designated airspace and around the nation's busiest airports to be equipped with ADS-B Out technology. The FAA developed ADS-B as a next-generation transponder with features that make it usable for EC. It is relatively low-cost and already widely adopted. Skydio sees the value of using ADS-B for EC. We offer an ADS-B integration that is simple to use and helps operators remain well clear of low-flying aircraft. In the unlikely event that a low-flying aircraft, such as a medivac helicopter, approaches the drone’s position, the operator receives an alert and is shown the relative altitude, location, and distance between the drone and the aircraft. This gives the operator precise information about low-flying traffic to make quick decisions about whether or not an avoidance maneuver is needed.

The latest FAA Reauthorization Act will advance the use of simple and effective EC technology. The law directs the FAA to prepare a report on the suitability and development of low-cost, portable EC devices and calls for a yearlong study on ADS-B equipage for ‘general aviation’ (GA) aircraft, including the reasons for non-equipage, the cost to FAA to accommodate non-equipped aircraft, the benefits of equipage, and various incentivization programs. These initiatives should pave the way for enhanced safety and efficiency in low-altitude airspace operations.

A Continued Focus on Drone Cybersecurity

Years before the U.S. drone industry came into its own, bipartisan members of Congress demonstrated a strong interest in promoting secure drones and ensuring taxpayer funds support U.S. and allied companies. The FAA Reauthorization Act reinforces that trend. In December 2023, Congress enacted a law that generally prohibits all federal agencies from using our buying drones made by certain foreign adversaries, including China. One part of that law, prohibiting using federal funds to purchase or operate adversarial drones, does not take effect for two years. The FAA Reauthorization Act gives that prohibition immediate effect for US DOT agencies, including grants to state and local agencies.


The FAA Reauthorization Act sets the stage for continued American leadership in aviation in a new era increasingly defined by uncrewed operations. In addition to requiring a new rule opening the skies to routine drone operations beyond line of sight, the law makes unprecedented investments in the drone ecosystem, funding state and local infrastructure inspection programs and supporting drone workforce development programs nationwide.

We applaud the bipartisan leaders in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce Committee who worked tirelessly to make this law a reality.

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