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FAA's Remote ID for Drones might start in 2021

Remote ID for Drones might start in 2021 according to FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration aims to have an initial version of Remote ID for Drones up and running in 2021. According to documents viewed by Avionics International, the FAA is planning to have a first version of Remote ID for Drones up and running at some point in the next year. Remote ID for Drones is a critical component of integrating drones and other unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.

FAA’s Remote ID for Drones might start in 2021

Less than one week ago, the FAA announced the cohort of eight companies, three of which are telecommunications companies, and notably absent are any drone manufacturers, to help the government in developing the technology requirements for its implementation of Remote ID for Drones.

According to the documents, the cohort has one critical goal and that is to launch the Remote ID for Drones services through at least one UAS service supplier (Airmap???) by 2021.

The FAA released its NPRM for Remote ID for Drones right after Christmas last year. The proposed rules require drone operators to transmit through broadcast and network the drone pilot’s location, the drone’s location, and other telemetry information as well as identifying information to a centralized system.

The proposed rules received more than 53,000 comments from hobbyist pilots, commercial operators, law enforcement agencies, the public, and other stakeholders who expressed their concerns about privacy implications, costs, compliance, implementation timeline, and many other things.

The FAA selected the following companies to be part of the Remote ID for Drones cohort

  • Airbus
  • AirMap
  • Amazon
  • Intel
  • OneSky
  • Skyward
  • T-Mobile
  • Wing

Avionics International rightfully points out that the group is very network-heavy (Intel, Skyward (Verizon), and T-Mobile). Readers who have followed DroneXL, The Drone U, DJI, FPV Freedom Coalition, and others will know that we are strongly against network-based Remote ID for Drones. We propose an identifying system that is broadcast only. However, this network-heavy cohort list does not bode for the future.

FAA's Remote ID for Drones might start in 2021

The documents show how the group of eight companies is developing the RIDEx system. Here are the highlights as reported by Avionics.

  • How will the FAA access remote ID information? Original plans suggested the creation of a “baseline stream” of data automatically flowing to FAA servers, but according to documents viewed by Avionics, the cohort has since abandoned that idea — at least for initial rollout — in favor of a Discovery and Synchronization Service (DSS) defined in the remote ID standard published by ASTM International. Rather than a nationwide unmanned traffic management system, it appears the FAA, along with other qualified agencies and public-facing apps, would query flight information through the DSS from participating USSs based on a grid system.
  • How often will the remote ID information update? The cohort is currently requiring a transmission rate of “at least once per minute,” a frequency rate not capable of providing real-time deconfliction services, for example, but that creates less burden on cellular networks throughout the country.
  • Should the operator or ground controller’s location be included in remote ID? So far, this appears to still be an element of the data captured by remote ID. This may create a compliance challenge and/or safety concerns, particularly if that information is made public.

For the public to know and understand what drone is flying overhead is a key component of this system, acknowledges the FAA, although how exactly this goal will be achieved is still unclear.

Wing has provided some insight into this by referring to the ASTM standard that includes data such as the type of unmanned aircraft, drone ID, type of license, speed, and altitude as publicly available information.

“The UTM system will be a different system than we see today with ATC/ADS-B because this is a different type of aviation, but it should include the safety tools and relevant information that people can use (the public, law enforcement etc.) to be able to react to drones,” a representative for Wing told Avionics.

The initial Remote ID for Drones system that would be operational in 2021 will only refresh and send data once per minute. A more robust system that would transmit information once per second might face significant coverage and bandwidth issues. This lower transmission frequency also results in significantly less historical data that needs to be safeguarded.

The FAA declined to comment on the article from Avionics as the agency is currently in the rulemaking process.

Apart from drone manufacturers taking part in the FAA’s cohort, law enforcement is also notably absent, which makes you wonder how exactly the FAA thinks it will be able to enforce Remote ID for Drones. This is a critical point as we have heard in our conversations with many drone pilots that many of them are not planning to comply.

Stephen Dickson, the FAA administrator, has pushed for the Remote ID for Drones rules to be made final before the end of this year, which seems to be an aggressive goal considering it is an election year and we are facing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The technology is being developed simultaneously with the proposed Remote ID rule,” according to the FAA press release. “Application requirements [to become remote ID service suppliers] will be announced when the final rule is published.”

The FAA’s aggressive push to start developing the technology and to finalize the rules before the end of this year, makes you wonder how much time is spent by the agency to digest the 53,000 comments that were submitted. Are our concerns taken into consideration? Or is the FAA going full steam ahead with the implementation of Remote ID for Drones as it is outlined in the NPRM.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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Haye Kesteloo

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