Airmarket, Telus, others partner on Remote ID trials in Canada

Remote ID is coming (though not until October of 2023) in the US. Though there’s no official policy yet in Canada, regulators are definitely interested, and it’s likely this will become part of the future across North America.

Before we get into what these companies are doing, it’s worth just refreshing our collective memory on Remote ID. It’s an FAA regulation that’s already on the books, but that won’t really impact drone pilots and manufacturers for a bit.

Here’s what it is.

Remote ID

It’s often referred to as a “Digital License Plate” for drones. That means it’s a wireless way of obtaining information about a drone, and there are significant implications for drone pilots and the companies that make UAS. By October of 2023, all drones weighing 250 grams or more must be capable of broadcasting a signal carrying the required Remote ID information.

You’ll have a couple of options. Manufacturers will have to integrate whatever technology is agreed upon before this time, and owners of older drones that are not equipped with this tech will have to affix external modules that do the same thing. (Trust us, there will be plenty of them on the market well in advance of the deadline.)

But why?

Let’s face it. There are a lot of drones around these days – flown by hobbyists, commercial operators, researchers, First Responders, and more. As more drones get in the air, regulators want to use technology wherever possible to keep airspace safe, so Remote ID is a method to enable this. It’s viewed by many as a crucial piece of the larger puzzle around Unmanned Traffic Management – a coming automated system that will ensure crewed and uncrewed vehicles can safely share airspace.

It would work by using an app on your phone. You’d be able to see some basic information about the drone, such as its registration number and position in airspace. Personal information is not disclosed, but regulators and law enforcement would have the additional ability to see the name of the person the drone is registered to. Here’s an FAA graphic about the planned system:

There are also different ways Remote ID can be transmitted: via Bluetooth, WiFi, or even over cellular networks (which obviously would enable very long-range tracking). The latter, over cellular networks, is referred to as Network Remote ID. And that’s what Airmarket and Telus are working on, in collaboration with federal regulators in Canada.

ASTM Standard

The AirMarket/Telus/Astra project is working with a standard developed by ASTM International, a global organization devoted to standards development that is widely adopted by industries around the world. Here’s how it differentiates the two main types of Remote ID transmission categories:

Broadcast Remote ID is based on the transmission of radio signals directly from a UAS to receivers in the UAS’s vicinity. Network Remote ID is based on communication by means of the internet from a network Remote ID service provider (Net-RID SP) that interfaces directly or indirectly with the UAS, or with other sources in the case of non-equipped network participants.

What AirMarket and partners are doing

Apologies for the long background, but it helps put what this group is doing into context. It’s testing an ASTM-standard Network Remote ID system using the TELUS Mobility Services. Specifically, it’s been flying a hexacopter over a gas pipeline, with Network Remote ID information streaming constantly from the drone. That data is then pushed to NAV Canada.

“As soon as we get it, we send it to NAV Canada, and they see it in their systems,” explained Lindsay Mohr, AirMarket’s CEO, in a conversation with DroneDJ. The work is part of an ongoing project called the Energy Unmanned Traffic Management Trials, or EUT. Here’s more from Lindsay, from a news release:

We are moving closer to making Remote ID work in the real-world. This work is helping to inform our regulatory agencies and co-define how industry can work in partnership to accelerate UTM service deployment in Canada

Remote ID in Canada?

Unlike the US, there’s nothing really on the books yet, but it’s certainly going to be coming in one form or another. A blog about drone laws in Canada predicted this a couple of years back:

In our view, remote identification requirements will be a necessary part of the regulatory framework for full integration of drone operations within airspace. We expect that this will become law before or when beyond visual line of sight regulations come into force in Canada (which are not expected for another few years).

Wait, there’s more!

If you’ve like to read more about Remote ID, the FAA has a really good primer right here. More deets on AirMarket are here.

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