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The current FAA regulations don’t permit UAS above 400’ AGL, but that doesn’t mean that the machines are not capable of flying higher than that.

Since a Mode-C (at the minimum) transponder is required in various airspaces, is it a good time to start considering the fact Drones should start carrying some sort of altitude-reporting transponders?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by fooot, FreeMan, 757toga, Steve V., Gerry Oct 24 '18 at 21:32

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ In the world of drone operators, for every 1 that follows the regulations, there are like 10 who don't. $\endgroup$ – SMS von der Tann Oct 24 '18 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Should they all have ADS-B Out as well by Jan 1 2020, like most other aircraft will do, if flying in airspace where Radio Comm's are required? These guys are making some pretty small units uavionix.com $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Oct 24 '18 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ The wording of the fact Drones should start carrying gives me the impression that your mind is already made up. If this isn't the case you might want to edit your question. $\endgroup$ – Steve V. Oct 24 '18 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but I can't see why this question would need to be reopened. What would make it not "opinion based"? How is "would it be safer?" not a call for opinions? $\endgroup$ – Federico Oct 25 '18 at 13:08
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It is of course a good time to begin considering this, and in truth, it's already a consideration. It's also an assumption by many in the private sector that the FAA will mandate this for commercial drones. Recreational drones will not be allowed to fly at high altitudes any time in the near future, however, as companies that aim to autonomously transport clients with drones are starting to test their aircraft, it will be very necessary.

The difference between recreational drones and commercial drones is largely their operating space. A recreational drone pilot has no good reason to fly anywhere near 1000 feet, though the technology is becoming more easily available to do so. If you operate under the assumption that the majority of drones are likely to be under 1000 feet, you can somewhat rule them out as factors in commercial operations, for now. Recreational drones are also very small, and they are generally looked at as having similarities to bird strikes - the difference is, there are effective ways to get rid of drones, and not as many effective ways to get rid of birds!

Beyond the fact that commercial transport drones would be flying at higher altitudes, they would also be much larger, and could cause much more damage in an accident. ADS-B will no doubt be a requirement for commercial drones (perhaps of a certain size or above a certain altitude), in the near future. The FAA actually broached this topic with the industry at EAA this past summer.

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Given how many drones are flying around today, equipping each with a mode C your mode S transponder would be a nightmare for other pilots using ADS-B compliant traffic systems, and make it increasingly difficult for them to filter between non-issue traffic like a drone at 300 feet versus another aircraft flying up there altitude. I’ve done quite a bit of flying out in Southern California area in recent times, and we constantly get Drone NOTAMS all over the place. It’s to the point that any kind of flying under 1000 feet AGL, the pilot needs to be a constant alert for such small unmanned aerial systems. For those reasons, no I don’t think there’s ever going to be requirement issued to put transponders in drones.

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    $\begingroup$ You can typically filter out traffic between a particular altitude. $\endgroup$ – M28 Oct 24 '18 at 19:26

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