To accompany the release of our Remote ID whitepaper, we thought it would be helpful to summarize where policy and standards development stands and what are the key open questions that need to be answered.

 

What will the rest of 2019 look like for Remote ID policy-making?

As far as policy-making for UAS is concerned, Remote ID is now firmly at the front of the line. Most current progress is being made in the slow, unglamorous process of federal agency rulemaking and consensus-driven industry standards organizations, but it is laying the groundwork for exciting developments in the near future.

Realistically, policy-making for UAS will take only marginal steps forward until further progress is made on Remote ID. The FAA has stated that Remote ID is a critical component to many high-priority rulemaking decisions. For example, the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) “Operations of Unmanned Aircraft Over People”, published in February 2019, was welcome and exciting but was clear that the FAA does not plan to finalize these rules until regulations for Remote ID are finalized, published, and implemented.

The Department of Transportation’s Regulatory Agenda has an NPRM for “Remote Identification of Unmanned Systems” slated for a May 2019 publication. That date is not guaranteed – the NPRM and ANPRM published in February 2019 were slated for October 2018. Given the calendar, it would not be surprising to see a Remote ID NPRM published or previewed around the time of the FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore in early June 2019.

 

Where are we making progress on Remote ID?

Alongside practical demonstrations like the InterUSS project, standards organizations have been an active area of progress on RemoteID. Their work is an important way to bridge the gap from theoretical and aspirational concepts of what Remote ID should be to ways to put it into action. Since standards tend to be the product of consensus among industry stakeholders, they can be particularly helpful and persuasive once adopted. The FAA may ultimately adopt at least parts of Remote ID standards proposed by standards bodies in the US or abroad in order to harmonize our rules with other countries’ rules. ASTM, for example, is developing standards for UAS Remote ID and Tracking centered around two primary methods of Remote ID, broadcast and networked, that should be finalized this year and reflect the input of dozens of stakeholders.

 

Key Remote ID Questions

Do we need Remote ID in the NAS?

This debate has been effectively over since 2017 – Remote ID is necessary and it is happening, but the devil is in the details and implementation.

Who will be required to have Remote ID?

Two main issues remain: (1) What aircraft weight and/or performance will trigger required Remote ID, and (2) which, if any, subgroups should be exempt from Remote ID? The FAA is in the unenviable position of having to thread the needle between achieving the largest possible compliance with Remote ID without burdening end users and hardware/software developers with overly restrictive rules. The reason they do this is because a lower compliance percentage lowers the value of a Remote ID system since more operators means capturing a more complete picture of aircraft operating in a certain area.

Commercial operators or those flying aircraft heavy enough to cause injury if crashed will need to have some form of Remote ID keeping them accountable, especially for BVLOS operations or in controlled airspace. If the aircraft fits the criteria for FAA registration, it is likely that aircraft will be required to have the capability to participate in Remote ID and the operator required to use it for all (or at least a large majority of) flights.

The more contentious issue is whether true hobbyists, those who build their own model aircraft fundamentally different than your average quadcopter for fun and/or educational purposes and have operated safely for decades, need to comply. While there will probably be a small carveout for limited hobbyist operations in limited areas (e.g. AMA fields), the large majority of recreational operators and hobbyists will likely be required to utilize aircraft with some Remote ID capabilities.

 

What will compliance look like?

It is still undetermined whether Remote ID solutions will be primarily based on software, on-board hardware, or a combination of the two. It is also still undetermined whether broadcast, network-based, or some combination of the two or others will be required. Because different forms of Remote ID can complement each other and handle some situations better than others, it would not be surprising to see the the final solution include elements of multiple methods or require a certain level of interoperability.

Some Remote ID solutions could be specific hardware additions to the aircraft in order to broadcast a signal to any number of ground-based devices, or some could be software-enabled data exchanges to capture data from the aircraft in real-time. As rules are finalized, requirements are made clear, and standards are developed, the commercial drone industry will be able to build compliant, real-life solutions. In general, the winning solution will be the easiest solution to implement and achieve the highest possible compliance.

 

Key Dates in the FAA’s Rulemaking Calendar for 2019 per the Dept. of Transportation Agenda

Additional information regarding the rulemaking process may be found here and here.
The FAA also regularly updates “Recently Published Rulemaking Documents” on the FAA website.

  • Interim Final Rule “External Markings for Unmanned Aircraft”
    – Published February 13 – Effective Feb 25, 2019
    – Comments must be received on or before March 15, 2019
  • NPRM “Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People”
    – Published February 13
    – Comments must be received on or before April 15, 2019
  • ANPRM “Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”
    – Published February 13
    – Comments must be received on or before April 15, 2019
  • “Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems”
    – NPRM expected in May 2019 per the Dept. of Transportation Agenda
  • “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Expanded Operations”
    – Next action undetermined

Lastly, we’re collecting feedback from the industry about Remote ID. It’s a quick 5-question survey. You can take it here. We’ll share results on our website and social media channels in April.

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