Unless you have taken a break from the internet for the last few months, you’re likely aware of the FAA’s landmark ruling in early 2021 on UAS Remote Identification (Remote ID, or RID). Over a year in the making, the new rule removes many barriers to commercial drone operations, at the minor inconvenience of broadcasting a location signal.
Remote ID is a system by which drones provide identification and location information while in flight. Starting from September 16, 2023, all drone pilots must comply with the FAA's Remote ID rule. This may affect drone startup businesses in terms of drone equipment upgrades and compliance procedures.
The need for a Remote ID policy was first proposed in late 2019 , and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published by the FAA. The proposed rules circulated for public comment in early 2020, culminating in the announcement of the final ruling.
Here’s how the future looks.
- December, 2020: FAA announces final Remote ID ruling (14 CFR 89, or “Part 89”).
- January, 2021: 14 CFR 89 published to Federal Register.
- March, 2021: 14 CFR 89 becomes effective.
- September, 2022: FRIA applications accepted by FAA.
- September, 2022: Manufacturer compliance required.
- September, 2023: Operator compliance required.
Complying with Remote ID
So, we have the policy, but how do we actually comply with it?
Understanding Remote ID Compliance
Part 89 states that the aircraft shall transmit certain telemetry information. This includes the drone’s ID (which could be a Remote ID-compliant serial number or Session ID), its location, altitude, velocity, control station or takeoff location, time mark, and emergency status. The ruling does not specify that the transmission must necessarily use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, although these are logical wireless protocols to use.
Impact on Public Officials and Air Traffic Control
Strictly speaking, the rule indicates that an aircraft can comply with RID by transmitting a text message with the required data elements to a public officials’ mobile devices within range of the broadcast. However, this does not appear to match the intent of this policy; and contrary to initial impressions, this doesn’t imply that an aircraft can simply send a text message with the required data to a local air traffic controller’s personal mobile phone. Rather, the language suggests that air traffic controllers and law enforcement personnel will use a specialized application to monitor all local unmanned traffic in real time, akin to a radar feed.
Challenges and Solutions in Implementation
This demonstrates that the ruling, while specific about what data to transmit, does not specify implementation standards. In the wake of the rule becoming effective, there may be a need to clarify the exact nature of acceptable implementation—providers must understand how the message traffic needs to be formatted, and what application(s) the intended recipients will use to monitor and collect data.
Additionally, broadcast signal encryption is currently not permitted, the FAA has not made specific stipulations regarding dual-use of the drone’s encrypted datalink. This could potentially lead to complications for manufacturers aiming to utilize the drone’s native encryption. The options are to either transmit two signals (one encrypted, one unencrypted) through the same transmitter, or add a second transmitter to the aircraft.
Product Development and Market Response
Once the government-industry team settles upon the communication standards, there will be a period in which industry vendors race to the market with FAA-compliant devices. This period will include securing funding for the added research and development of a new or modified component (including software and firmware), designing the capability, obtaining FAA certification via a Declaration of Compliance, creating a manufacturing capacity, and marketing the product to drone consumers.
The Role of Air Traffic Controllers and Law Enforcement
In parallel, air traffic controllers and law enforcement agencies will be developing mobile device applications to receive the RID data, and training their personnel on proper usage.
While FAA has also made provisions for drones without Remote ID to operate within FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs), the industry as a whole will need to adapt to these new regulations for broader, compliant operations. The key to success will lie in agreeing on the “best” way to do this, then working collaboratively to ensure a smooth transition.
What This Means for Pilots
Standard Remote ID and ‘RID-Compliant’ Drones
As of mid-2023, drones available on the market today can now confidently state that they are “RID-compliant”— the standards for compliance have been clearly defined and implemented. This is a progression from a drone being “RID-ready”: if a drone’s transceiver already operates in the 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz ISM bands (standard unlicensed Wi-Fi frequencies common to drones in North America), then it might have been a simple software update away from RID compliance (once the standard was finalized and the update was developed, that is). These were likely the first drones to satisfy the Standard Remote ID requirement, and many drones on the market today are already “RID-compliant”.
Purchasing a New Drone
With this in mind, you can now consider purchasing a new drone with specific RID compliance, as the FAA has published a list of approved models. If you’re currently flying a drone, it’s important to know that operator compliance became mandatory in 2023.
Criteria for an RID-Ready Drone
If you do not currently have a drone, but are looking to buy one, here are some items to look for as being RID-ready.
- Frequency (900 MHz or 2.4 GHz)
- Regular Software/Firmware Updates
- Magnetic Compass
- Gyroscopic Sensors
- GPS Receiver
These criteria can help determine whether a drone has the necessary features to meet the Remote ID requirements, though it’s important to check the specific model against the FAA’s list of approved RID-compliant drones.
As the implementation of remote identification (RID) regulations are quickly approaching, it is crucial for us drone operators to ensure compliance with these requirements. In this section, we will explore a few potential drone models and their compatibility with remote identification. By understanding the features and specifications of these drones, you can determine if your drone is compliant or identify the key criteria to look for when purchasing a new drone.
DJI Mavic 3: The DJI Mavic 3 is a popular drone model that is equipped with features for remote identification compliance. It has a flight controller that can be updated with the latest firmware to ensure RID compliance. It offers advanced capabilities and is a commonly used drone in the market.
Autel EVO 2 (V3): The Autel EVO 2 (V3) is another drone model that is compatible with remote identification requirements. It utilizes the aircraft serial number for compliance and starts with “1748 Charlie.” It’s important to note that the earlier versions of Autel EVO 2 (V1 and V2) do not meet the RID compliance standards, so it’s recommended to use the V3 version for compliance.
Skydio X2E: The Skydio X2E is a drone designed to comply with remote identification regulations. It broadcasts the required remote ID information and has been approved by the FAA. By checking the FAA’s list of approved drones, you can find specific details and serial number information to ensure compliance.
Parrot Anafi USA: The Parrot Anafi USA is a drone model that meets the remote identification requirements. It has undergone the necessary approval process and has a dedicated remote ID feature. The Parrot application for this drone allows users to control and monitor remote ID functionality. It’s important to follow FAA guidelines and ensure that remote ID remains active at all times during flight.
For a more comprehensive list of compliant drones, click HERE
Broadcast Modules for Remote ID Compliance
In order to comply with Remote ID (RID) regulations, drones that do not natively operate in the suggested bands, or do not have firmware updates available, can utilize a Remote ID Module. These modules, designed to enable RID functionality, serve as an alternative solution for drones that require additional equipment to meet the RID requirements.
Requirements for Broadcast Modules
According to Part 89, Broadcast Modules must fulfill two key requirements: (1) collect the drone’s telemetry data and (2) broadcast it in the appropriate format and frequency.
Options for Remote ID Modules
Amidst the ongoing development of RID compliance solutions, below are two remote ID modules for consideration:
Blue Mark Beacon
Description: The Blue Mark Beacon stands out with its compact size and unique shape. To set it up, users need to access the IP address through their device’s settings. While it may involve a slightly different setup process compared to other modules, its compact design offers a practical solution for achieving remote ID compliance.
Drone Tag Mini
Description: The Drone Tag Mini is a lightweight remote ID module that comes with its own dedicated app for easy setup and tracking. It features a convenient magnetic opening mechanism, simplifying the installation process for drone operators.
Embracing Remote ID Compliance
As the market for Remote ID modules continues to evolve, drone operators are encouraged to stay informed about the latest developments and advancements in remote identification technology. Ensuring compliance with Part 89 of the regulations is essential for maintaining safe and responsible drone operations.
How to Fly Without Remote ID
Under Part 89, certain organizations, such as community-based organizations (CBOs) or educational institutions, may qualify for an FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA) and operate drones without Remote ID equipment. However, it is important to note that the guidelines for these allowances are still being developed by the FAA.
Again, we have the policy, but how do we actually comply with it?
Recognition as a Community-Based Organization (CBO)
The FAA has yet to establish the method for an organization to apply for recognition as a CBO. Regulators probably had organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) in mind when they added this rule, but they have not yet established the method for AMA to apply for CBO designation. As of now, the FAA is still in the process of developing the guidelines.
FAA Guidelines for FRIA Designation
The FAA has yet to publish guidelines on where a FRIA may exist, or how a CBO requests FRIA designation. We can assume that there will be some basic rules involving proximity to certain classes of airspace and populated areas. What we don’t yet know is if a pilot is required to be a member of the CBO in order to fly in its FRIA, or if any recreational pilot can fly inside a FRIA that was set up by a CBO. If the AMA successfully designates my community park as a FRIA, do I need to join the AMA in order to fly there? Can CBOs share a FRIA? In any case, the web portal and application process for our future CBOs to request a FRIA will be in development for some time, as the FAA will not begin accepting FRIA applications until circa September 2022.
It is crucial for drone pilots to stay updated on the evolving guidelines and requirements surrounding FRIA and CBO designations to ensure compliance with the FAA’s regulations. As the development process progresses, more information will become available regarding the application and operation within FRIs for eligible organizations.
My Final Thoughts...
As the implementation of Remote ID regulations approaches, it is understandable that there may be more concern than excitement within the commercial drone community. This new requirement brings about operational challenges that will require adaptation and adjustment. It’s important to acknowledge that transitioning to these changes may be frustrating for some eager pilots. However, it’s crucial to approach this process with a positive mindset and a commitment to compliance.
Part 89 of the FAA regulations, in addition to removing various restrictions from drone operations, serves as a remarkable example of government-industry collaboration. The FAA actively engaged with manufacturers, commercial remote pilots, academic institutions, and drone hobbyists, taking into account over 53,000 comments. These comments played a significant role in shaping and refining the draft policy, demonstrating the FAA’s willingness to listen and learn from the professional drone community.
As we move forward into the next phase of implementing these regulations, it is essential for all of us to stay actively involved in the drone ecosystem. By staying informed, adhering to the evolving guidelines, and contributing to discussions and advancements in the field, we can collectively work towards a better future for drone operations. Let’s embrace these changes as an opportunity for growth, ensuring the safe and responsible integration of drones into our airspace.
Remember, as drone enthusiasts and professionals, we have the ability to shape the future of the industry. Let’s continue to learn, collaborate, and contribute, paving the way for innovation and the responsible use of drones.