Right after Chrismas, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking for remote identification of drones. The NPRM document that you can find here is currently unpublished and is scheduled to be officially published on December 31st, 2019, after which we will have 60 days to comment on it.

Notice of proposed rulemaking for remote identification of drones

The FAA clearly sees Remote ID for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as a big step to integrate drones safely into the national airspace. According to the agency, there are currently have 1.5 million drones and 155,000 remote pilots registered with the FAA.

“Drones are the fastest-growing segment of transportation in our nation and it is vitally important that they are safely integrated into the national airspace,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The FAA encourages all drone pilots or anybody with any interest in aviation safety to read the unpublished version of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking now in the Federal Register. After this document becomes officially published on December 31st, 2019, a 60-day comment period will open during which we can provide our feedback and concerns to help the FAA come to a final rule on Remote ID for drones.

“As a pilot, my eye is always on safety first,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Safety is a joint responsibility between government, pilots, the drone community, the general public and many others who make our nation so creative and innovative.”

Remote ID for drones is the latest in a series of steps taken by the FAA and UAS industry to safely integrate small unmanned aerial systems or drones into the national airspace, including the small UAS rule, which covers drones weighing less than 55 pounds other than model aircraft, and the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which automates the application and approval process for drone operators to obtain airspace authorizations.

To allow commercial drone operators to perform more complicated operations such as flights beyond-visual-line-of-sight, Remote ID for UAS is seen as a crucial and necessary step. The ultimate goal being, an unmanned air traffic management system that works separately but in coordination with the existing air traffic management system for manned aircraft.

“While remote identification alone will not enable routine expanded operations such as operations over people or beyond visual line of sight, it is a critical element for building unmanned traffic management capabilities. The FAA envisions that the remote identification network will form the foundation for the development of other technologies that can enable expanded operations.”

Remote ID would apply for all drones that are required to register with the FAA. Small recreational drones that weigh less than 0.55 Lbs, such as the DJI Mavic Mini, are not required to register.

Full implementation of remote identification relies on three interdependent parts that are being developed concurrently.

  • The first is this proposed rule, which establishes operating requirements for UAS operators and performance-based design and production standards for producers of UAS.
  • The second is a network of Remote ID UAS Service Suppliers (Remote ID USS) that would collect the identification and location in real-time from in-flight UAS. The Remote ID USS would perform this service under contract with the FAA, based on the same model the FAA currently uses for the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).
  • The third part of the remote identification ecosystem is the collection of technical requirements that standards-setting organizations will develop to meet the performance-based design and production requirements in this proposed rule

All UAS operating in the airspace of the United States, with very few exceptions, would be subject to the requirements of this rule. All UAS operators would be required to comply regardless of whether they conduct recreational or commercial operations, except those flying UAS that are not otherwise required to be registered under the FAA’s existing rules.

All UAS produced for operation in the airspace of the United States would have to comply with the design and production requirements established in this proposal with exceptions for amateur-built UAS, UAS of the United States government, and unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 0.55 pounds.

This proposal establishes design and production requirements for two categories of remote identification: standard remote identification UAS and limited remote identification UAS.

  • Standard remote identification UAS would be required to broadcast identification and location information directly from the unmanned aircraft and simultaneously transmit that same information to a Remote ID USS through an internet connection.
  • Limited remote identification UAS would be required to transmit information through the internet only, with no broadcast requirements; however, the unmanned aircraft would be designed to operate no more than 400 feet from the control station.

Under this proposal, the vast majority of UAS would be required to comply with one of these two categories of remote identification. For those limited exceptions, which include certain amateur-built UAS and UAS manufactured prior to the compliance date, operators flying UAS without remote identification capabilities would be permitted to fly only at certain specific geographic areas established under this rule specifically to accommodate them.

This proposal envisions that within three years of the effective date of this rule, all UAS operating in the airspace of the United States will be compliant with the remote identification requirements. No UAS could be produced for operation in the United States after two years and no UAS could be operated after three years except in accordance with the requirements of this proposal.

DroneDJ’s take

Obviously, this notice of proposed rulemaking for remote identification of drones is a big deal for the drone industry and raises many questions. We will publish some of the initial reactions from various industry players here on DroneDJ as well as the thoughts and concerns of ourselves and others as we work through the document.

We would urge you to read it too and to share your concerns with the FAA once the comment period begins. Not reading this important document and not voicing your concerns, such as privacy of the drone pilot, means letting others decide how Remote ID will work and how it will impact your recreational and commercial drone operations.

What do you think about the proposed rule for remote identification of drones? Let us know in the comments below.

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