As the drone industry continues to expand, regulating drone flights has become more crucial than ever. With the introduction of Remote ID, the FAA aims to ensure that drone operations are safer, more accountable, and easier to manage. However, it has been a bumpy road to implementation, with the FAA even recently extending the enforcement date by six months. In a recent RIIS drone software meetup Godfrey Nolan, President of RIIS, and guest speaker David Messina, President, CEO and Board Member at FPV Freedom Coalition, tackled major concerns related to Remote ID and provided some much-needed clarity on the subject. This article will summarize the major points discussed during the meeting.
What is Remote ID?
Remote Identification is a system that allows authorities and the public to identify drones and their operators.
The Digital License Plate for Drones
Remote ID has often been likened to a digital license plate for drones. It allows authorities and the public to identify drones in flight as well as their operators. This identification system is not just a proposed idea; it’s set to come into force on March 16, 2024 (extensions came after the meetup air date). This development could bring multiple benefits, notably for businesses involved in drone technology. Current drone regulations limit operations to within Visual Line of Sight of the operator/pilot. Godfrey Nolan emphasized that Remote ID could facilitate Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) missions, which are critical for automated drone activities.
- Does NOT apply to drones under 250 grams if you are flying recreationally
- Applies to ALL drones if you are flying under a Part 107 basis
- The rule currently only concerns Broadcast Remote ID, NOT Network Remote ID
- Not all drones are supported
- Operator location data disclosure differs depending on whether it is standard/integrated with the aircraft or if it is broadcast.
- Standard/Integrated: Operator location is disclosed dynamically on a 1hz basis
- Broadcast: Operator or ground control station location is synonymous with the takeoff location
Recreational vs. Part 107
According to David Messina, when flying recreationally, individual pilots need to be registered. That means they can use one remote ID module on many drones if they wish. If you are flying commercially under Part 107, each individual drone will need its own module and serial number.
Toward a Networked Future
The meetup also touched upon the anticipated future of network Remote ID, which has broader implications for NASA and UAS traffic management (UTM). Network Remote ID is slowly but surely making its way into future legislation.
Preparing for the Change
For businesses and individual operators, these changes mean they need to prepare adequately. Whether it’s understanding the technicalities of Remote IDs, the different types of broadcasting modules, or just the practical aspects of complying with new regulations, preparation is key. Resources and tools are available for those who wish to delve deeper into this subject.
You can find out if your drone is compliant and supports Remote ID at the FAA UAS Declaration of Compliance website. If your drone is listed, all you will need to do is update your firmware. If your drone is custom, you will need to add a Remote ID broadcast module. The final option is to fly your drone within FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs), which the FAA has designated as areas safe to fly without Remote ID equipment.
The FAA Drone Zone website is the place to register. Depending on whether you are flying recreationally or commercially under Part 107, your steps will be different, so refer to the FAA’s Remote ID Getting Started guide.
The primary distinction between broadcast and integrated Remote ID rests in the fact that the broadcast module doesn’t integrate directly with the drone’s flight controller. These modules transmit vital data such as the drone’s serial number, altitude, velocity, control station location, and emergency status, typically via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Various types of broadcast modules are available on the market, with their prices varying significantly. Bluetooth 5 was mentioned as the recommended protocol due to its longer range and integrated error checking. Additionally, both speakers noted that while Android platforms could support Bluetooth 5, Apple has not provided a date when Bluetooth 5 will be supported.
How Remote ID Tracking Works
In the meetup’s latter segment, Nolan delved into the nitty-gritty of Remote ID implementation. Apps like Drone Scanner, AirSentinel, and Open Drone ID were discussed. It was noted that among the limitations of Drone Scanner is the slow update speed, which can take 40-50 seconds to refresh. Nolan also reviewed the Open Drone ID code, which aligns with ASTM Remote ID standards. This code is adaptable to various hardware configurations, including Linux-based systems and potentially Raspberry Pi machines.
RIIS has developed and released a proof-of-concept implementation of broadcast Remote ID for the Twilio Programmable Asset Tracker using BlueTooth 4 Legacy advertisements on its Github profile. It’s worth taking a look at to gain a more technical understanding of what a Remote ID implementation may look like.
Remote ID is the first and perhaps most crucial step to integrating drones into the National Airspace System (NAS). Complying will be paramount to operating your drones safely and legally. With the current extension, operators will have six more months to comply, with enforcement becoming effective on March 16, 2024. The next steps on the horizon for the FAA are Network Remote ID and BVLOS operations. RIIS will continue to provide updates and host meetups to keep you informed about everything relevant to Remote ID that could affect your business, drone development cycle, or recreational flights.