Enable breadcrumbs token at /includes/pageheader.html.twig

Flying Taxis: The Future Is Now

By September, all drone operators will be required to have remote identification.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects all drone owners and operators to contain remote identification capability by September 16. The law, in short, will give each drone an electronic “license plate,” and will allow law enforcement to track the aerial modules and collect any necessary information. 

Though the law is welcomed by Mary Rupert, counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) analyst at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), she admits it will not stop bad actors. 

“It’s an additional data point that will help us with threat mitigation, however, there’s a very low percentage of people that will actually register their drones,” she told the 2023 Homeland Security Conference audience on Tuesday. 

In general, drones should be flown within visual line of sight, a term deemed much too vague by Peter Kalaitzidis, UAS program manager at New York Power Authority.

“The way they define visual line of sight is if I take off and I fly a drone into a little black dot, where I can’t tell the heading of the drone—which way is forward, which way’s left, which way’s right—I’m legal,” Kalaitzidis explained. “You can go to a little speck of dust all the way out in the horizon, you’re legal.” 

However, if the operator is required to use binoculars to find a drone’s location in the sky, the flight is considered illegal by the FAA. 

“They left the ambiguity in the rules where it’s dead reckoning … the rules aren’t the best,” Kalaitzidis stated. 

Policy, or the lack of, challenges those in law enforcement and protectors of the nation, panelists agreed.  

While the good guys work to mitigate UAS threats, new technologies are emerging to help in areas where the bad guys aren’t going to comply with the rules—the drug cartels, prisons and nefarious actors seeking to circumvent regulations and requirements for remote identification.  

Moving away from enforcement issues, panelists shared how drones can greatly improve operations, from keeping an eye on borders to helping safeguard human workers who, for example, didn’t need to climb poles or towers to inspect critical infrastructure last year after a heavy snowstorm since the drones could perform those duties, Kalaitzidis said.  


Yet, for all the positives associated with drone use, there remains the question of drafting the right regulations and the difficulty of consistently enforcing them, both at the federal and state levels, the panelists agreed. Aiding in the pursuit of enforcement is the continued improvement in the development of technology to track drone locations—and communicate with their operators; so if someone flies a drone too close to power lines or in restricted air space, for example, they can be notified. 

Regulating the skies is no easy task. Federal agencies are actively—and successfully—working to keep the skies safe, having carried out 600 counter UAS deployments since 2019, Rupert said. “We've done them safely. We've done them within policy. Every single one of them has been coordinated with the [Federal Aviation Administration] … making sure that it's not going to negatively impact anything in the national airspace.” 

Additionally, there's a lot of work being done to ensure compliant uses of the airspace, Klavon noted, and the government is investing millions of dollars in research and development to understand how best to manage airspace for the forecasted thousands—if not millions—of drones that will be in the air at any time.  

And if providing secure flying parameters for the physical drones wasn’t unnerving enough, officials must factor in cybersecurity concerns as well, said Aaron Hampton, managing director, enDevelopment LLC. With the number of drones already flying and collecting data, one must ask: Where is that data going and who is securing it?

Further complicating the issue are the policies, practices and standards of drone use that individual states might issue, Rupert said. Despite the complexities, these issues are being addressed by lawmakers, she said.


The innovation landscape is wide, touching on many industries to make the emerging domain safe, efficient and profitable. For example, with the era of flying taxis here, operators need safe, secure and reliable services from the telecommunication industry to ensure a constant communications link, Klavon said. 

The idea of unleashing multitudes of small drones that might fly people and at low altitudes is mindboggling to Rupert, who said there aren’t yet enough operational controls over the ever-growing field of drones. 

“We’re going to transport humans and large battery packs that could crash into a building and then we might not be able to put the fire out because they burn much hotter,” Rupert fearfully stated. 

“You’re not going to sleep tonight because we’re flying [taxis] next week,” Klavon responded, referring to upcoming flights between Hollister and St. Martin airports in California.