Notwithstanding the FAA’s refusal to delay the commenting period for the Remote ID NPRM, this proposal still elicited 54,000 comments from the drone community. The majority of response is intensely negative which does not bode well for compliance.
The outcome of this proposed rule will have far-reaching impact on drone jobs, education, and adoption of this nascent technology. Before we get too far ahead, let us get to the basics first.
What is the Remote ID?
So, what exactly is Remote ID or Remote Identification? Remote ID is nothing but a digital license plate for drones. Using Remote ID, it is possible to pinpoint the exact location of a drone in airspace. The purpose of Remote ID is to enhance airspace safety and lay the framework for a Universal Traffic Management System (UTM).
What is the FAA’s Remote ID NPRM All About?
FAA just concluded with a NPRM or a Notice for Proposed Rulemaking. The purpose of this notice is invite comments from everyone who are likely to be impacted if this proposal becomes a law. Those impacted would include drone service providers (Part 107 pilots), hobby pilots, and drone manufacturers.
The commenting period for the Remote ID NPRM ended on March 2nd. Barring a few organizations with vested interests, most comments are dead against the passage of this proposal. An NPRM may be followed by a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking if the FAA decides to make some significant changes to their original proposal.
Typically, it takes around 18 months to produce a final rule. Once this proposal becomes a law, full compliance requires 3 years.
How Can You Comply with the Remote ID NPRM?
There are three ways of complying with the Remote ID NPRM
- Standard RID
- Limited RID
Standard RID requires you to broadcast information via radio frequency as well as the internet. While most drones already broadcast information via radio frequency, reliably transmitting information over the internet means that drone pilots will have to go for a more expensive data plan.
You can fly under Limited RID with just an internet connection. But this is a highly restrictive option as you are limited to just 400 feet height and distance. If you are taking up a commercial drone photography, videography or mapping job, limiting your flight to 400 feet will pretty much make operations unfeasible.
Option 3 is that of flying your drone in a FRIA or a Federally Recognized Identification Area. This option is meant for hobby pilots who wish to fly drones without remote identification capabilities.
What Will Be the Impact of FAA’s Remote ID NPRM on Hobby Flying?
FAA’s Remote ID NPRM will not only impact commercial pilots, but also murder the hobby industry. As per these proposed rules, you will no longer be able to pursue your favourite hobby over the weekend in your backyard or in your favourite park.
If these rules go through, hobby pilots will be restricted to flying in FRIA’s or Federally Recognized Identification Areas. The requirements to qualify for a FRIA are stringent, to say the least.
Firstly, only Community Based Organizations (CBO) like AMA are eligible to apply for a FRIA. And moreover, the FAA will not accept any FRIA applications after 1 year. A FRIA application is valid for 4 years, and can be cancelled at the FAA’s prerogative.
Why Will the Remote ID NPRM Murder the Drone Industry?
The Remote ID NPRM will murder the drone industry as we know it. These are the three main causes of concern:
- Increased Costs
- Flight Restrictions
- Privacy Concerns
Commercial Pilots who choose to fly under Standard RID will have to invest in RID compliant equipment, bear a monthly subscription fee AND go for a more expensive data plan. Flying under Limited RID is not feasible as discussed above. Additionally, what happens if you are flying under Standard RID and lost connectivity mid-flight? Will you be downgraded to Limited RID once you land?
Additionally, this proposal recommends that apart from authorities, even the general public has a way to identify and track down different drones. Would this not endanger the drone pilot’s safety? And remember – the minimum age to get a Part 107 license is just 16. So, how can we even think of broadcasting a minor’s information to the general public?
As far as Standard RID is concerned, the FAA does propose the using “Session ID’s” instead of the UAV’s serial number. A Session ID is a randomly generated alpha-numeric code that can be used for one flight only. A Session ID is intended to mask the drone pilot’s identity, and thus assuage privacy concerns.
However, what happens if you lose internet mid-flight? Does the RID system go back to transmitting the serial number?
How Much Will Remote ID Implementation Cost?
The FAA has estimated that Remote ID implementation will cost $581.5 million over a 10-year period. Now, DJI did some math and their estimated costs came out at…$5 Billion! That’s right. 10x FAA’s estimate!
These are some of the key factors contributing to these added costs:
- Drone pilots will have to go for higher data plans and invest in remote-id compliant drones
- Drone manufactures will have to upgrade their facilities
- Additionally, drone pilots will have to bear subscription costs
- Existing fleet could be retrofit with Remote ID requirements
The Remote ID NPRM is an intrusive and expensive proposition that will hurt the entire drone industry. Drone jobs will dry up. Schools will find it unfeasible to continue to drone programs. And casual flyers will have to give up their beloved hobby.
Instead of relying on an internet-based RID system, broadcast-based RID is a far more feasible alternative. Most of the current drones already have the ability to broadcast via radio frequency. DJI’s Aeroscope is a broadcast-based RID system that is already being used to detect illegal drone flights.
We hope that the FAA pays heed to the concerns of the drone community and proceeds with a more progressive option that can truly take the drone industry forward.
If you found this information useful, you might want to check out other blog posts as well. Watch this space for the latest and most exciting drone news and updates!