What the FAA’s Drone Remote ID Rule Means for You
December 28, 2020 was a big day for the UAV industry. As you may recall, it was on this day that the FAA issued its ruling concerning the drone Remote Identification (drone Remote ID) for UAVs. In essence, it created something akin to a digital license plate for drones, allowing for easy identification while flying.
So, how did we get here?
Thankfully, the vast majority of commercial drone pilots are probably like you and me. They fly legally, and always follow industry-recognized practices for safe flying.
The problem is that law enforcement often has a great deal of difficulty identifying who is flying a drone. In some cases, even when numerous complaints are filed, drone operators remain unidentified.
This left government agencies in need of a better way to identify a drone operator & their location – in real-time.
After significant planning, public comments, panels, and reviews, the FAA issued the final ruling on how they would address this issue. Drones flying in US airspace (with a few minor exceptions for tiny drones) would need to broadcast identification information.
Let’s take a look at what this drone Remote ID means for you.
What Information Does Drone Remote ID Cover?
For the most part, the information transmitted by the Remote ID involves your physical location.
To comply, your drone’s serial number or session ID will be transmitted, along with its geographic location & velocity. This includes latitude, longitude, and altitude.
Additionally, it will also transmit the location of the controller, as well as a time stamp and emergency status.
As an added measure, drones are required to self-test their Remote ID capability. If it’s malfunctioning for any reason, it won’t be able to take-off.
In the case of an accident, complaint, or injury, law enforcement & investigators will better be able to identify not only the drone, but the responsible party flying it.
Drone Remote ID Compliance from Manufacturers
There are three ways to comply with self-identification.
First, you can buy a newer drone that already comes equipped with Remote ID capability. The good news is that many major manufacturers have already taken the drone Remote ID requirements into consideration in their latest models.
For instance, DJI offers seven of its newest, most popular models with FAA drone Remote ID compliance in mind: the DJI Mini 3 Pro, the Avata, the Air 2S, DJI Mavic 3, the Mavic 3 Cine, Matrice 30 (a.k.a. M30), and the DJI Matrice 30 & Thermal (M30T).
Other major manufacturers offer drone Remote ID compliant drones as well, such as Autel’s EVO II and EVO Lite, both accepted by the FAA as recently as Oct. 6th, 2022.
Both Wingtra and Zephyr also landed models on the FAA’s accepted list in Sept. and Oct., respectively.
(For a full list of drone Remote ID compliant models, be sure to check out the FAA’s official website, right here.)
Two More Remote ID Compliance Options
OK, so newly manufactured drones might be Remote ID compliant – but what about the drone you bought two years, that might not comply?
Well, fear not friend, you’re not out of luck. To start, some of the major manufacturers, such as DJI and Skydio, have indicated that their drones will become Remote ID compliant via future software updates. So, hopefully, a simple update will resolve any problems.
However, even if that falls through, the FAA also allows for an additional after-market module to be attached to your drone. This add-on would broadcast the required information. These can be retrofitted on any drone, bringing them into compliance with the required regulations.
However, drones outfitted with these modules must remain within the visual line of sight of the pilot (sorry, no BVLOS waivers for these, as of right now).
Finally, you can avoid the requirements for drone Remote ID if you fly in an FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). Just note that these areas exist primarily for community-based organizations and educational institutions.
So, while a local college or community might be able to host educational or recreational drone events without worrying about Remote ID requirements, you might not be able to rely on them being available when and where you need to fly.
Key Dates to Mark on Your Calendars
There were two important dates in the final ruling, with the first applying to manufacturers.
Originally, OEMs selling drones in the US would need to make them Remote ID capable by September 16, 2022.
However, just before the rule was set to go into effect, the FAA extended the deadline by three months. Manufacturers now have until December 16, 2022, to come into compliance.
As for pilots, currently the FAA is holding firm on their originally planned date of September 16, 2023, to fall into compliance. Again, this holds true even if you’re flying an older drone.
While you can still fly legally until that day without Remote ID, you don’t want to be caught unprepared.
How Are Manufacturers Responding?
So, now that the December deadline approaches, where does that leave manufacturers?
Well, as you would expect, some companies are ready, while others are not.
That said, a few of the largest drone manufacturers have already made declarations of compliance to the FAA. As mentioned earlier, two key examples are Skydio and DJI.
Per Skydio’s website, “New Skydio drones produced after September 16, 2022, will have drone Remote ID built in, with the exception of Skydio X2D drones used by the U.S. Department of Defense or other federal agencies. A drone with Remote ID built-in will be clearly identified as such with a special label.”
Though Skydio is still determining the best path forward for pilots after September 16, 2023, it will likely be a software upgrade or additional add-on hardware component.
DJI made a similar statement on its site:
“DJI, …, is the first drone manufacturer to submit and earn U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for complying with the FAA’s Remote Identification protocol. The FAA has approved the Declarations of Compliance for seven of DJI’s newest and most popular drone models, including what is officially known as America’s “RID000000001″ for the DJI Mini 3 Pro.”
Like Skydio, a software update/hardware add-on will probably be the solution for pilots in September 2023 who have DJI drones built before this change.
Reason for Extended Deadline
For manufacturers that didn’t make the September deadline, the extension to December is a critical lifeline. Without it, many simply wouldn’t fall into drone Remote ID compliance.
So, what made the FAA push back the original deadline?
Well, for one, they admitted that some information, such as the ASTM standard, was delayed in getting to manufacturers.
This delay made it difficult for some to make the necessary changes and file their declaration on time. This resulted in a major decision in granting an extension to OEMs until December 16, 2022.
If manufacturers still do not comply after December 16, the FAA will use its discretion in determining how to enforce the regulation.
At the time of publishing, there remains quite a bit of uncertainty regarding penalties, punishments, or even enforcement of the drone Remote ID rule. Just keep in mind that’s largely due to the “new-ness” of the rule – not the FAA’s conviction about it.
The Key Takeaways
As frustrating as rules and regulations can be, the FAA’s only goal is maintaining public safety.
While pilots in the US might not need to worry about the rule until Q3 2023, time has a way of sneaking up on us all. Especially with the deadline already in a state of flux, it’s definitely a rule you’ll want to pay attention to.
With a little less than a year before all commercial drone pilots must comply, there are only limited solutions on the market. One, in particular, Dronetag, costs around $300 and requires a subscription.
However, we’re likely to see more offerings in the space during the start of 2023.
Like it or not, drone Remote ID is something we’ll all need to comply with by September of next year.
Now, if you’re fortunate enough to buy a drone that already complies with the regulations, you won’t need to worry about it. Your UAV will already come equipped.
However, if you have an older drone, you’ll want to check with your manufacturer for any necessary firmware updates. Of course, this depends on your make and model of drone.
If you can’t update to a Remote ID compliant version, you’ll need to add a 3rd party module to your craft to bring it up to code.
So, does your drone program need help falling into compliance? If unsure how the ruling affects you, speak with experts who can help prepare your program before the deadline.
At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.
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