The main topic of discussion over the last few weeks has been the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for Remote ID for drones that was released right after Christmas last year.

The NPRM as laid out in the 319-page document has the potential to put the future of drone innovation in the US at risk, according to DJI. The Chinese drone maker states that it strongly supports Remote ID for drones, but “not like this,” and warns people against the FAA’s “deeply flawed” NPRM.

Today, DJI’s Brendan Schulman, VP of policy & legal affairs, posted an article in which he states that DJI strongly supports drone Remote ID, but “not like this.”

DJI wants governments to require Remote ID for drones, but the FAA has proposed a complex, expensive, and intrusive system that would make it harder to use drones in America, and that jeopardizes the success of the Remote ID initiative. Instead, we support a simpler, easier, and free version of Remote ID that doesn’t need a cellular connection or a service subscription.

Schulman continues to explain that the FAA’s “deeply flawed” NPRM puts the future of drone innovation in the US at risk and makes the connection to license plates that are required for cars.

Everyone understands why cars need license plates: Drivers have to be accountable. But what if instead of just a license plate, your car was also legally required to be connected via the internet to a privately run car-tracking service that charged you an annual fee of about 20% of your car’s value, and stored six months of your driving data for government scrutiny? Would you think the government had gone too far?

DJI has long been a proponent for Remote ID for drones, and Schulman participated in the FAA’s Remote ID Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) that ultimately recommended: “For drones flying under existing FAA rules to perform Remote ID via a radio broadcast, with network solutions an optional alternative.”

Drones that would broadcast Remote ID information would satisfy the FAA’s requirements, but more importantly, the technology would be easy and inexpensive to implement, resulting in high levels of compliance.

Over the past few years, DJI has shown how Remote ID for drones can work. First, the company launched AeroScope in 2017, which comes in both a mobile and a fixed setup that can identify modern DJI drones that fly in the vicinity. Late in 2019, DJI also demonstrated how Remote ID for drones can be made available on smartphones so that law enforcement agents would be able to identify drones that are flying near them.

However, DJI states that for mysterious reasons, the FAA has decided to go against the ARC’s recommendations and also deviate from Europe’s broadcast-based Remote ID initiative. ARC now proposes an expensive and burdensome set of rules for both hobbyist and commercial drone pilots. The FAA claims that their proposal of a Remote ID system for drones that uses both broadcasting and networking technology would be “more complete.”

Schulman continues to warn against the FAA’s “deeply flawed” NPRM, saying:

The FAA proposal has prompted an intensely negative response from the drone community, including serious commercial operators who otherwise support the need for Remote ID. That does not bode well for compliance rates. Rather than fostering a culture of compliance, this proposal risks creating a culture of circumvention that could doom the entire Remote ID endeavor.

Schulman continues:

It remains a mystery why the FAA has diverged so far from the advice it received from 74 stakeholders who devoted their summer to the cause. It may be that security agencies influential on this topic insisted on a panopticon of total awareness, without recognizing that the high costs it imposes may actually thwart the comprehensive solution they need. It may also be that influential companies with visions of future complex drone operations, or new captured sources of recurring revenue, urged expensive forms of control for all other drone operators, even if they unfairly constrain the applications that are already saving lives and improving jobs today. Whatever the reasons behind the startling departure from a reasonable Remote ID rule, the FAA should be transparent with the public about them, so the thousands of people who will submit official comments can be truly informed.

The article ends with an explanation of how to make your voice heard and how to submit your comments to the FAA before the deadline of March 2, 2020.

DroneDJ’s Take

We wholeheartedly agree with DJI and Brendan Schulman. DroneDJ is pro-Remote ID, and we recognize how it will help to unleash the added value that drones bring to our society, and how it will help to make the skies safer for everybody.

However, we feel that Remote ID for drones should be implemented in the least expensive and burdensome way for drone operators, while still providing the identifying information to law enforcement agencies. We applaud DJI as the only drone manufacturer in the US that has shown practical and useful solutions such as AeroScope and drone-to-phone technologies to solve the Remote ID challenge.

We hope that the FAA will reconsider its “deeply flawed” NPRM for Remote ID. In the meantime, we will keep writing about the shortcomings of the proposal, and will help concerned commercial and recreational drone operators voice their concerns.

What do you think about the FAA’s “deeply flawed” NPRM for Remote ID for drones? Let us know in the comments below.

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