Remote ID for drones in the US is coming. This week the FAA announced eight companies that will help develop the technical standards for the system that allows all drones to broadcast basic information for tracking. And some household names are on the list. Remote ID will require that new drones send out unique ID codes and location data while flying in US airspace. As it stands, it appears that this would be over cellular networks, and T-Mobile is one of the companies that will help develop the standards. Verizon is also involved, through its subsidiary Skyward. The other companies working on the program are Amazon, Airbus, AirMap, Intel, OneSky, and Wing (a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet).
Remote ID remains contentious
Remote ID has been controversial since the FAA put out a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the standard in December. As described in the NPRM, it would require that drone operators pay a monthly fee, and it would collect the GPS coordinates of the operator. Since recreational pilots in particular may be operating at or near their home, there’s concern that the system as currently envisioned would essentially reveal people’s personal location.
Drone giant DJI is not part of the remote ID development process (and given US government animosity toward the company, that’s hardly surprising). But DJI has been outspoken against some aspects of the proposed rules. “[T]he 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,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy and legal affairs, in a statement. Like other critics, DJI advocates for a version of Remote ID that doesn’t require a fee or cellular connection or service subscription to function.
Whatever form it finally takes, Remote ID will entail big changes for drones in America, reports GeekWire. The technology would be required on all drones weighing more than 8.8 ounces/250 grams (essentially anything bigger than a DJI Mavic Mini). Manufacturers would have two years to implement the technology on their products. And older drones without the tech would have to be phased out within three years. Otherwise, they could only operate in FAA-designated zones similar to those where hobbyists fly model airplanes.