As you probably know by now, the FAA released its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding Remote Identification (Remote ID) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). NPRM for Remote ID for UAS for short… You can find the 89-page final document (the original was 319 pages) on the US Government regulation website right here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/12/31/2019-28100/remote-identification-of-unmanned-aircraft-systems
The FAA’s proposal for Remote ID will dramatically change how and where people can fly their drones if it’s implemented. It will eliminate a large portion of the FPV market, potentially permanently ground older drones, prevent people from flying their drones in numerous places, destroy privacy, and increase the cost to own and operate drones. Right now, we have the opportunity to leave a comment to the FAA and hopefully get it changed.
Let’s work together to make sure our voices are heard. Please share this guide with your friends in the community and submit a comment to the FAA with what you would like to see changed.
We’ve known the NPRM was coming for a long time but nobody expected the content that was published!
Watch this summary video where Greg explains the basis for this guide.
Based on the amazing feedback our students and followers have provided in our initial video, we decided to formulate and share elements of our response. Feel free to use any of the elements below to create your own response. The comment period is open from 12/31/2019 to 3/2/2020.
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A few reminders before posting your comments
- (1) DO NOT COPY/PASTE someone else’s comment. This is important! Any comment that is similar will be put in the same pile and count as one. Formulate your own comment.
- (2) Comments are public and will be posted. Everyone will be able to read them.
- (3) Remain professional when making your point. You’re probably annoyed by all these proposed changes but your comment will be disregarded if it contains profanities.
- (4) Address all parts of the proposal. This includes the proposed regulation but ALSO the basis that the FAA used to come up with the changes.
- (5) Use reliable sources to emphasize your counterpoint. Use statistics from government websites if available.
- (6) Provide alternatives and solutions to solve the issue presented.
- (7) Take your time. Comments are open until 3/2/2020.
- (8) There is a 5000 character limit if you write your comment on the website. However, there is no character limit if you upload your comment as a PDF (recommended if you use images).
- (9) Reference the NPRM by its docket number FAA-2019-1100.
List of keywords and abbreviations
Remote ID UAS Service Suppliers (Remote ID USS): a person qualified by the Administrator to provide aviation-related services to unmanned aircraft systems.
Standard Remote Identification UAS (Standard RID UAS): Standard remote identification UAS would be required to broadcast identification and location information directly from the unmanned aircraft and simultaneously transmit that same information to a Remote ID USS through a network (internet) connection.
Limited Remote Identification UAS (Limited RID UAS): Limited remote identification UAS would be required to transmit information through a network (internet) connection only, with no broadcast requirements; however, the unmanned aircraft would be designed to operate no more than 400 feet from the control station.
Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC): A committee composed of industry representative who were tasked to make recommendations to the FAA regarding Remote ID. Their findings are presented in Section VI of the NRPM, starting on page 72457.
What is the goal of Remote ID
In order to formulate a coherent response with solutions that make sense to the FAA, you must first understand the reasons provided by the FAA for the need for Remote ID. Whether or not you agree with them is irrelevant for now. These reasons set the stage for the proposed rules. If your proposed solution goes against any of the points below, it will likely be disregarded by the FAA.
The background information for the need for Remote ID is presented in Section IV of the NPRM, starting on page 72452 and is summarized as follows:
Maintain the Safety and Efficiency of the Airspace of the United States
This one is easy. This is the FAA raison d’être. “The FAA’s ability to manage air traffic in the airspace of the United States is predicated on the agency knowing who is operating in the airspace and, if necessary, on being able to communicate with those airspace users.” (IV. A. p 72452). Remote ID would help fulfill this requirement for UAS.
Associate UAS with their owners
This is currently difficult to do with only the registration number. Pilots and aircraft are in two different locations. Unlike manned aircraft, the registration number cannot be seen from a distance.
In addition, the lack of radio communication between controlling agencies and UAS operators makes it more difficult to know the identity of the aircraft (unlike manned aircraft). Therefore, identifying a UAS from a distance can only be done via some sort of Remote Identification system.
Being able to determine where the operator is located is key to help the FAA “investigate and mitigate careless, hazardous, and noncompliant operations.” (IV. A. 3. on p. 72453). Knowing that their location is available to FAA personnel and law enforcement could also help foster accountability for UAS operators.
Sharing the UAS location would also help low flying manned aircraft (such as helicopters or crop dusters) identify potential hazards before they become a factor. The UAS location could also be shared with air traffic management to provide better separation services.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM)
The current Air Traffic Management (ATM) is scheduled to be supplemented by some sort of UAS Traffic Management (UTM) in the near future. Similarly to the current ATM, the “vision for UTM includes services for flight planning, communications, separation, and weather, among others.” (IV. B. on p. 72454). Such service would require UTM personnel to know the location of UAS, which would be accomplished by Remote ID.
Necessary for beyond line of sight operations
In order for UAS to fly beyond line of sight, they need to be identifiable, along with the location of the operator, hence the need for some sort of Remote ID.
The FAA has a duty to “assist law enforcement agencies in their efforts to enforce laws related to regulation of controlled substances (…) and to prescribe regulations necessary for safety in air commerce and national security.” (IV. D. on p. 72454).
The FAA is particularly aware of the potential use of UAS related to the following: “carrying and smuggling of controlled substances, illicit drugs, and other dangerous or hazardous payloads; the unlawful invasion of privacy; illegal surveillance and reconnaissance; the weaponization of UAS; sabotaging of critical infrastructure; property theft; disruption; and harassment.” (IV. D. on p. 72454)
Note that the FAA quotes several events in section IV. D. on p. 72455 to justify the need for tighter regulation. Some of these events have sources, some don’t. Some also have sources that contradict the FAA and are questionable. We discuss this in further detail later in this article.
Points we will address in our response
Here’s the list of items that we disagree with and that we will address in our response. Feel free to use these points as guidance to your response. Please do not copy/paste any of this as it will diminish the quality of your response.
Requirements for Standard Remote ID UAS to connect and transmit via the internet to a Remote ID USS.
Impact: This method would require a Standard RID UAS to be equipped with an internet connection. Depending on the amount of data to be transferred, this could lead to an additional financial burden on all operators/pilots, including hobbyists. If the UAS itself is equipped with an internet connection, a SIM card will have to be installed and the cost of an additional line would be incurred. The amount of data being transferred is currently not available in the proposal.
Research of the largest wireless carriers in the US shows that an additional data plan to a current plan would cost from $35 to $70 per month. This is a burden many hobbyists and startup businesses cannot afford, especially with multiple UAS in a fleet.
Solution: The proposed 14 CFR Part §89.110(a)(2) (p. 72917) states that “if the internet is unavailable at takeoff, or if during the flight, the unmanned aircraft system can no longer transmit through an internet connection to a Remote ID USS, the standard remote identification unmanned aircraft system must broadcast the message elements directly from the unmanned aircraft.”
Under this scenario (loss of internet connection), the broadcast functionality is enough to meet all requirements of Remote ID. As such, requiring only Standard RID UAS “broadcast” should remove the financial burden for all operators/pilots and still satisfy the requirements for the aircraft to share the elements with all agencies.
Note that this solution is also what the UAS Remote ID Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) recommended in their final report. The technology was referred to as Tier 1 and allowed for the information to be EITHER broadcast or send via network. “Direct broadcast (locally) or Network publish: UAS in this tier would be required to direct broadcast both ID and tracking information so that any compatible receiver nearby can receive and decode the ID and tracking data. If a network is available, network publishing to an FAA-approved internet-based database satisfies this requirement.” (VI. A. 3. p. 72458)
The current form of Standard Remote ID as proposed by the FAA, was originally referred to as “Tier 2” by the ARC, as described here: “Tier 2 would be UAS that are conducting waivered operations that deviate from certain part 107 operating rules, and where the FAA determines that Tier 2 ID and tracking are required as a condition of the waiver.” (VI. A. 3. p. 72458).
Required internet connectivity for Limited Remote ID UAS
Request for comment: Limited Remote ID UAS will be required to establish an internet connection prior to take off, otherwise the UAS will be grounded. (XII.D.6 on page 72475).
Internet connectivity currently is not available nationwide as shown by the coverage maps for the three major wireless providers AT&T,Verizon, and Sprint. All areas represented in white currently do not have data coverage.
Verizon Coverage Map
Sprint Coverage Map
AT&T Coverage Map
It is also unclear if or when better coverage will be available in the future, and at what cost.
Impact: Operators would be unnecessarily limited to flying in areas where internet connection is available, which limits a lot of beautiful places in the country where flying would otherwise be legal and safe. This option would also force certain operators to upgrade to more expensive data packages with their cell phone providers.
Solution: As mentioned in the previous comment, the ARC proposed a reasonable solution that would make Limited Remote ID unnecessary. With the Tier 1 method proposed by the ARC in VI. 3. (p. 72458), UAS could either broadcast or connect to the internet, which would eliminate the need for internet connectivity where it is not readily available.
Remote ID for amateur-built (including FPV drones) will be cost-prohibitive
Request for comment: Under the current proposal, under 14 CFR §89.1, the FAA defines an amateur-built unmanned aircraft as a UAS “the major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by a person who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation.” (p. 72517)
In section XIII. A. (p. 72480) the FAA clarifies that they will “consider a UAS to be amateur-built if the person building it fabricates and assembles at least 50 percent of the UAS“. As a result, FPV drones built by hobbyists would fall under the “amateur-built” category.
Later on in the same paragraph, the FAA also clarifies that an “amateur-built UAS that is fabricated (…) without remote ID would be restricted to operating within an FAA-recognized identification area in accordance with §§89.105(c) and 89.120.
The FAA offers a path to remote ID for amateur-built UAS with a caveat: “an individual may wish to design and produce their own standard remote identification UAS for educational or other purposes, procuring parts and components from multiple vendors. (…) This person would be required to meet the requirements of subpart F including using a means of compliance that meets the requirements of proposed § 89.310.” (XIII. A. on p. 72481).
In plain English: you can add remote ID to your FPV drone but only if you go through the approval process for Remote ID, laid out by the FAA in subpart F of Part 89. The process is expected to costs tens of thousands of dollars in man-hours and compliance.
Impact: This would have a MAJOR impact on the FPV community since FPV aircraft would now be limited to FAA-recognized identification areas. No amateur builder would be able to equip their UAS with remote ID technology to allow them to fly outside of the FRIA. The wording also prevents amateur builders from purchasing a pre-approved remote ID “kit” that they could use to retrofit their aircraft.
Solution: In section VI. A. 1. on p. 72457, the ARC proposed that only UAS with the “ability of the aircraft to navigate between more than one point without direct and active control of the pilot” would be required to comply with Remote ID. This is a reasonable solution that would exclude FPV aircraft from this regulation.
Alternatively, the FAA could allow amateur-built aircraft to be equipped with remote ID broadcast technology that was designed by a third-party producer. In this case, the UAS builder would not be required to meet the requirements of Subpart F.
Homebuilt restricted to FAA-recognized identification areas and line of sight
Request for comment: According to the proposed 14 CFR §89.120: “A person may operate an unmanned aircraft system that does not meet the requirements for a standard remote identification unmanned aircraft system under § 89.110 or a limited remote identification unmanned aircraft system under § 89.115 only if the requirements of (a) or (b) are met.
- (a) Operations at FAA-recognized identification areas. Unless otherwise authorized by the administrator:
- (1) The unmanned aircraft system is operated within visual line of sight.
- (2) The unmanned aircraft system is operated within an FAA-recognized identification area.
- (b) Operations for aeronautical research. The person is authorized by the administrator to operate the unmanned aircraft system without remote identification for the purpose of aeronautical research or to show compliance with regulations.”
Impact: This regulation would have the biggest impact on the homebuilt and FPV community. It will also have a major impact on compliance. It is clear, based on the current feedback, that many will ignore Remote ID if it is proposed under the current form, making the concept dead on arrival.
Solution: As proposed above, if homebuilt are excluded from the requirement for Remote ID on the basis that they cannot navigate between more than one point without active control, there is no longer a need for FAA-recognized identification areas.
Sharing the location of the operator/pilot with the public
Request for comment: In section VI. B. on p. 72460, “the FAA is not proposing for the identity of the owner of the UAS to be included in the message elements, because the message elements would generally be available to the public. The message elements that the FAA is proposing are the minimum necessary to achieve the FAA’s safety and security goals while avoiding potential privacy concerns.”
In section XI on page 72471, “the FAA anticipates that the message elements related to any standard remote identification UAS or limited remote identification UAS are publicly available information and may be accessed by any person able to receive a broadcast or who has access to a Remote ID USS.”
In section XIV. C. on page 72485, “the remote identification message elements transmitted by a standard remote identification UAS or limited remote identification UAS to a Remote ID USS may be available to the general public.”
14 CFR §89.305(b) and (c) and §89.315(b) and (c) detail the message for standard and limited remote ID. In both cases, the latitude/longitude and altitude of the control station must be included in the message elements. This means that the location of the control station (pilot) will be available to the public.
Impact: Making the control station location information available to the public will undeniably lead to angry and possibly deadly encounters between the public and UAS operators.
On February 23, 2019, a Long Island resident fired a shotgun at a UAS flying near his property. The operator was on a volunteer mission to find a local missing dog. (Link)
In July 2015, a Kentucky man shot down a drone as it flew over his property (link).
This man in Colorado is proposing to shoot down drones, and is shown in camera discussing his technique. (link)
Two men were confronted for flying their drones to film a family member on a nearly empty beach. The violent confrontation was caught on camera. (link)
In July 2018, a remote pilot was confronted for flying his drone to record footage for a client. The altercation resulted in the police being called. The law enforcement officer told the harasser to leave the pilot alone and left. The entire confrontation was recorded on video. (link)
A woman attacked a 17-year-old who was flying a drone over the beach. She was arrested following the confrontation. (link)
Forums, such as this one, this one, or this one (and many others) are filled up with people talking about being accosted by the public and falsely accused of flying illegally.
There are countless other stories of confrontations from the public towards law-abiding UAS pilots, including confrontations with firearms. Sharing the location of the pilot will only help irrational people confront the pilot and potentially harm them.
Thieves will also have a way to target drone pilots with expensive equipment and mug them.
The FAA has not provided any reason for making the location of the pilot available to the general public.
Solution: In a first step, the FAA needs to add a section in the NPRM regarding Public access to Remote Identification and spell out their reasoning regarding allowing the public to access the operator’s location. We do understand the need for access to this data by the FAA and law enforcement agencies, provided:
- (1) These agencies receive proper training regarding regulation and their applicability.
- (2) There is a mean to identify law-abiding operators who received approval to fly in controlled airspace.
The ARC recommendation when it comes to data sharing and tracking was quite different than what is proposed in the NPRM. In VI. A. 5. on p. 72458, the ARC recommended that the availability of the following information be required:
- (1) Unique identifier of the unmanned aircraft;
- (2) Tracking information for the UAS; and
- (3) Identifying information of the UAS owner and remote pilot.
In VI. A. 6. on p. 72459, the ARC recommended that “the FAA should implement three levels of access to the information that is either broadcast or captured and contained in the appropriate database: (1) Information available to the public (the unmanned aircraft unique identifier); (2) information available to designated public safety and airspace management officials (personally identifiable information (PII)); and (3) information available to the FAA and certain identified Federal, State, and local agencies (all relevant tracking data).
We believe that the recommendation from the ARC was appropriate and should be reconsidered.
The public currently has a way to identify manned aircraft but does not have access to the pilot since they are located behind a secured location at an airport, therefore keeping manned pilots safe from irrational people. Drone operators do not have this luxury.
No longer a free option to fly UAS
- (1) Fly with a UAS equipped with Standard Remote ID
- (2) Fly with a UAS equipped with Limited Remote ID
- (3) Fly at an approved FAA-recognized identification area
Flying a remote ID equipped UAS (standard or limited) requires a connection to a USS, which the FAA expects to cost an average of $2.50 per month, based on the current rates charged by LAANC providers. (XIX. A. 3. ii. on p. 72497). In addition to these costs, the pilot will also have to pay for an internet connection fee, cost to be determined.
The last option, flying at an FAA-recognized identification area, will also likely cost a fee and a subscription. The AMA fee is currently $75 per year.
In addition to all these costs, the FAA will require that hobbyist register their UAS individually rather than register the pilot every 3 years. It is not uncommon for CBO members to own dozens of UAS, with a lifespan of 10 years or more. Assuming $5 per aircraft, 3 times during the lifetimes, multiple by twenty aircraft, that’s over $300 worth of registration fees.
Impact: There would no longer be a free option to fly a UAS anymore. Whether it is an internet connection fee, a USS fee, or an AMA-type fee, this will increase the cost of entry into the hobby. Many pilots who fly kit-built model aircraft will be priced out of the market. Many schools, who already have tight budgets, will stop considering creating drone programs.
Solution: Getting rid of the requirement for network connection would make Remote ID virtually free for everyone. No need for USS subscription, no need for internet connection fee, or AMA-type fee.
Request for comment: In IV. D. on page 72455, the FAA cites several events/incidents to justify the need for more stringent regulation. Most of the sources cited contain no proof that UAS were actually involved with the incidents.
Let’s review some of the events the FAA mentioned in their documents.
(a). “On average, six sightings of UAS allegedly conducting unauthorized operations are reported to the FAA each day.” No source was provided for this information. This is a significant statistics that needs to be backed by sources.
(b). “Multiple pilot reports of a UAS approximately 10 miles away from Newark Airport led to a disruption in arrivals in January 2019 that impacted other airports on the East Coast for several hours.” The facts are incorrectly quoted by the FAA in the NPRM. The drone sightings did not happen within 10 miles of Newark Airport, but rather 20 miles North of the airport, at Teterboro, a general aviation airport. The drones were never spotted within Newark’s airspace, according to the source cited by the FAA. The closing of Newark was simply done as a precaution.
Also, note that Teterboro is part of the LAANC program and authorization to fly in its airspace is available up to 200 feet. It is troublesome that the FAA would misquote an article to prove its point in an official government document.
(c). “The more than 30-hour disruption of flights at London’s Gatwick Airport in December 2018 (…)” The article, from the Guardian, quoted by the FAA mentions that two people were arrested in conjunction with the Gatwick incident. What the FAA failed to mentioned in the NPRM is that the two suspects were later released as it was proven they were not involved, as shown in this article from the BBC.
The failure from the FAA to properly research this issue is troublesome. To date, there is still no footage available proving that drones were indeed involved in the Gatwick incident, despite the hundreds of journalists and law enforcement officers on-site during the supposed sightings.
(d). “as well as brief disruptions at airports in Dubai, Dublin, and Frankfurt within the last years.” The article quoted by the FAA regarding the Dubai incident does not detail any information about what happened or any proof that it indeed did. Instead, the article is an interview of Dr. Max Klein of SCI Technology. According to their website, SCI Technology is a leader in the design, development, manufacture and support of advanced electronic systems for the Defense & Aerospace sector. It is fair to say that the CEO of a company that could greatly benefit from drone attacks may not be unbiased regarding drone risks.
Regarding the Dublin incident, the article from DroneLife.com, quoted by the FAA in the NPRM goes on to explain: “Dublin Airport’s claim that there was a ‘confirmed drone sighting’ must be taken with a pinch of salt. The only details shared in the statement were that a pilot reported a drone sighting to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). There is nothing to suggest that this wasn’t a suspected sighting rather than a confirmed one. Unless, of course, the airport has a counter-drone system that detected the same drone or some kind of photographic evidence. But you’d think they would have mentioned that evidence if it is present.”
It appears the person who quoted this article as a mean to justify Remote ID regulation did not read the article!
Impact: Using unverified sources, no sources, or sources that contradict the FAA’s assertions to justify additional regulation only discredits the agency.
Solution: The FAA must correct its sources for the incidents mentioned in the NPRM and provide concrete proof that UAS were indeed involved. Statements without evidence should be removed from the NPRM.
Remote ID is not the most effective method for National Security
Request for comment: We disagree that Remote ID would have a strong benefit when it comes to National Security. The general idea is that actors who want to use UAS for nefarious acts will disregard the law.
In IV. D. on page 72455, the FAA cites several events/incidents to justify the need for more stringent regulation.
- “There have been two confirmed unmanned aircraft collisions with manned aircraft: an Army Blackhawk helicopter in New York City in September 2017, and a small twin-engine passenger aircraft approaching Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport in October 2017.“
One could argue that if these events were voluntary in nature (and not accidental), the actor would have likely disregarded the law regarding Remote ID.
Also, note that no source was made available for these events.
(a). “On April 11, 2019, numerous spectators visually spotted a UAS operating during a Major League Baseball game.” The perpetrator was eventually apprehended within 24 hours. While Remote ID could have helped identify the pilot, again, our argument here is that if someone wanted to accomplish criminal activity with their drone, they would disregard Remote ID laws.
The reasoning is the same for the three other events mentioned in the NPRM: in May 2019 in Sacramento, and in 2017 over two California National Football League games.
In all four scenarios, UAS were already violating existing laws by flying over people, and by flying in a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR). Remote ID would have helped identify the operator but would not have prevented them from accomplishing their tasks.
(b). The NPRM states that “Remote identification would also aid in preventing terrorist attacks. Recent reports in the news including the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham’s modifications of commercial UAS, the assassination attempt of Nicola’s Maduro in Venezuela, a foiled plot in the United Kingdom to fly an unmanned aircraft into an airliner, and a bomb-laden unmanned aircraft flown by Huthi forces and detonated over a military parade in Yemen illustrate the ways in which UAS may be used to threaten life, critical infrastructure, and national security. Remote identification of UAS would enable national security agencies and law enforcement to quickly identify potential threats and act to prevent such incidents.“.
In all of the above scenarios, a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) would have been established in the US (Presidential TFR, Special event TFR). A bad actor would not follow Remote ID regulation and as such, national security agencies would have no information about the aircraft or its operator.
A much more efficient technology would be the use of an anti-drone system, such as the one recently implemented at London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaule airports. As mentioned in this article, “alongside detecting drones, the technology is also able to identify the location of the drone pilots themselves, enabling law enforcement to quickly find and stop them.” This technology does not rely on terrorists to follow the rules of Remote ID.
The same technology could be used around areas where very few UAS operators can get approval to fly, such as around prisons to prevent drug smugglers. Any operator who is granted approval to fly in such restricted airspace should simply coordinate with the entity in charge of the anti-drone technology.
Relying on Remote ID alone for the identification of dangerous UAS is not a viable approach. The FAA even mentions this fact in section XI on page 72471: “Although remote identification of UAS may not deter nefarious actors, it would allow the swift interdiction of the clueless and careless persons manipulating the flight controls of UAS“.
Instead, we believe anti-drone technology such as the one deployed at London Heathrow and Paris airports would be more efficient at detecting National Security threats.
An unclear path to retrofit
“Some UAS manufacturers may offer an option to modify a UAS originally manufactured without remote identification to become compliant with the requirements for a standard remote identification UAS or limited remote identification UAS.” (XV on p. 72485)
“Based on industry information and market research, the FAA estimates at least 93% of the current part 107 fleet and at least 20% of the current recreational fleet would be eligible for retrofits, thus minimizing the costs for operators and producers.” (XIX. A. on p. 72489).
There are however two main issues at hand:
- The FAA is proposing to adopt the use of serial numbers for UAS that comply with ANSI/CTA-2063-A (XIII. B. on p. 72481). Unfortunately, current serial numbers from popular manufacturers do not meet the standard. Unless an exemption is granted, current UAS will not be able to comply with the regulation.
- The standards for compliance are currently not available and “may not be available until year 2 of the analysis period” (XIX. A. 3. iii. on p. 72498).
Impact: If 80% of the current recreational fleet is NOT eligible for retrofit, it will lead to a high percentage of rogue UAS who will not follow the rules, hence making Remote ID a failed experiment. In addition, without the ability to comply with the ANSI serial numbers, 93% of the commercial fleet would be ineligible for retrofit.
USS may be allowed to discriminate based on UAS model
Request for comment: In XIV. B. on p. 72484, the FAA states that: “The FAA does not propose to require a Remote ID USS be universally compatible with all UAS. That said, the FAA anticipates that some UAS manufacturers will also be Remote ID USS. In those cases, the Remote ID USS may choose to only connect to UAS made by the same manufacturer. This model is similar to how mobile telephone networks sell devices that can only be used on their networks. The FAA requests comment on whether manufacturers should be permitted to produce UAS that are only compatible with a particular Remote ID USS.”
Impact: Under this proposal, we could see DJI becoming a USS (which isn’t a problem). DJI could then only allow DJI UAS to connect to its USS service. Similarly, Autel could become a USS and only allow Autel UAS to connect to its USS service. If a business, school, hobbyist owns DJI and Autel UAS, they would have to pay both DJI and Autel to access services mandated by the FAA, doubling the cost of operation.
Another downside to this approach is that manufacturers could restrict access to certain USS, limiting options for pilots, or requiring pilots to subscribe to a more expensive, less reliable service.
In addition, it is very likely that smaller UAS manufacturers won’t be able to afford to become USS, making it even harder for future UAS manufacturers to start businesses. Less manufacturers means less competition, which would benefit large manufacturers. Less competition also means less innovation and fewer options for consumers.
The term “the internet is available” is not defined.
Request for comment: The proposed 14 CFR Part §89.110(a)(1) states “if the internet is available at takeoff, a standard remote identification unmanned aircraft system must:(i) Connect to the internet and transmit the message elements through that internet connection to a Remote ID USS” (p. 72517). It is however unclear what “if the internet is available” means since it is neither defined in 14 CFR §89.1 Definitions nor 14 CFR §1.1 General Definitions.
In X. C. on p. 72467, the FAA specifies “UAS with remote identification would automatically connect to the internet when it is available, similar to how wireless devices, such as smartphones, connect automatically to the internet when there is sufficient signal strength and coverage.” The terms sufficient signal strength and coverage must be defined.
Impact: Depending on how “available” is interpreted, there could be situations where a Standard RID UAS is connected to the Internet with a poor connection and therefore is unable to connect to a USS. In this situation, as per Table 4 on page 72466 under “connectivity prior to takeoff”, the UAS would be grounded.
Solution: Getting rid of the requirement for network connection would remove the need to worry about internet connectivity.
Alternatively, the FAA must define “the internet is available” or “sufficient signal strength and coverage” in the appropriate paragraph of 14 CFR Part 89. The definition should take into account poor connection by establishing a minimum download/transfer rate under which the internet would not be considered available. The threshold should be such that the download/transfer rate allows for sharing the required message elements.
The cost of Remote ID compliance for UAS manufacturers
Request for comment: The FAA estimates that UAS producers would have to produce the documentation required to receive compliance approval for Remote ID would “average 50 pages and would take five hours per page to generate” (XIX. A. 3. iii. on p. 72498). In footnote 157 on p. 72498, the FAA also assumes a “burdened wage of $82.83 per hour” to fill out the paperwork (assuming only one person works on the document).
Impact: The cost to get Remote ID technology approval would exceed $20,000 (50 x 5 x 82.83), something that smaller manufacturers will either not be able to afford, or will pass down to the customer, and become less competitive with larger manufacturers.
Solution: Getting rid of the requirement for network connection would reduce the cost of creating a compliant solution since most UAS on the market already meet the requirements to broadcast the information.
The death of kits and kits stores
Request for comment: In 14 CFR §89.501 (p. 72522), the FAA proposes that amateur-built aircraft systems, UAS of the United States government, UAS weighing less than 0.55 pounds, and UAS produced for the purpose of aeronautical research be exempt from the requirement of Remote ID.
14 CFR §89.1 (p. 72517) proposes to define an amateur-built unmanned aircraft as a UAS “the major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by a person who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation.” Footnote 53 in Section VII (p. 72461) specifically mentions that “amateur-built UAS would not include unmanned aircraft kits where the majority of parts of the UAS are provided to the operator as a part of the sold product.”
Impact: Requiring UAS built from aircraft kits to conform to Remote ID would surely make kits completely obsolete, and with it, kill an entire segment of the population who got into aviation and aero modeling by purchasing cheap and easy kits to assemble.
Solution: In section VI. A. 1. on p. 72457, the ARC proposed that only UAS with the “ability of the aircraft to navigate between more than one point without direct and active control of the pilot” would be required to comply with Remote ID. This is a reasonable solution that would exclude kit-built aircraft from this regulation.
Phasing out of approval for FRIA
Request for comment: The FAA proposes that applications by CBOs to become an FAA-approved identification area will only be accepted “within 12 calendar months of the effective date of a final rule. At the end of that 12-month period, no new applications for FAA- recognized identification areas would be accepted. After that date, the number of FAA-recognized identification areas could therefore only remain the same or decrease. Over time, the FAA anticipates that most UAS without remote identification will reach the end of their useful lives or be phased out.” (XV on p. 72486).
The FAA also states that “for UAS not equipped with Remote ID, the way to identify and comply with the intent of the remote identification rule is to operate within the FAA-recognized identification areas.” This leads us to believe that UAS that weigh less than 0.55 pounds, while exempt from the requirement to be equipped with Remote ID technology, will be limited to FRIA.
Lastly, the FAA estimates that “members of a nationwide community based organization own, on average, two aircraft,92 which may have an average lifespan that exceeds ten years.” (XIX. A. 1. C. on p. 72491).
Impact: Without a current path for home-builders to easily add Remote ID technology and without a path for sub-0.55 lbs UAS to fly anywhere but a FRIA, phasing out FRIAs will force a portion of the flying population out of the hobby. In addition, since most CBO members have aircraft with an average lifespan that exceeds ten years, this would leave them with no place to fly.
In addition, this will signify the end of an affordable hobby that introduced so many generations to aviation.
Request for comment: The FAA is asking whether or not certain waivers should be required to comply with Remote ID earlier than the proposed effective dates.In section XVII on p.72488, the FAA is “seeking comments about whether certain UAS operations currently conducted under waiver, such as operations over people or nighttime operations, should be required to comply with remote identification prior to being authorized under a waiver or regulation.”
“The FAA would also consider providing incentives that the FAA can reasonably provide to parties that adopt remote identification as early as possible. The FAA invites comments on possible incentives for early compliance.”
Possibility of nationwide grounding of UAS
Request for comment: In Table 4 on p. 72466, the FAA proposes that if a Standard Remote ID UAS, at takeoff, is connected to the internet but is not transmitting to a Remote ID USS, the UAS be grounded.
Impact: It would be possible for nefarious actors to perform a coordinated Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack on USS providers, and as a result, ground UAS nationwide.
Solution: As previously mentioned, removing the requirements for network Remote ID would prevent DDOS attacks.
Can only work if everyone is on board
Without proper buyout from the various UAS communities, Remote ID stands to be a failed experiment. Based on the current reception of this proposal, without major changes, this proposal is dead-on-track.
80% of hobbyists drone would not comply from the start.
The FPV and homebuilt community would be the most affected and will likely disregard these rules.
Commercial operators will be forced to pay all sorts of fees, making their businesses less competitive than non-UAS businesses they compete with.
Realistically, the FAA does not have the manpower to enforce the current regulation in place, let alone additional regulation. Law enforcement are already too busy to respond, this will only increase their need to respond to non-emergency situation (see Project Marshall)
TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read)
If you’ve made it this far, you will see that our recommendation for all the issues raised above comes down to a few major points. Here’s a summary of the big picture that we are proposing.
1. “Broadcast” only, network connection as a backup
Network connection implementation is complicated and expensive. It will make retrofitting more difficult and sometimes impossible for manufacturers, and it will cost users in the long run with monthly USS fees. Without the need for network connection, there is also no need for USS, making Remote ID a free solution for users.
The broadcast option seems to be good enough for the FAA if the internet is not available on takeoff. It should therefore be good enough all the time.
A broadcast only option also means that the FAA, law enforcement agencies, and security agencies can easily identify aircraft and determine if they are a safety risk, all with affordable (already available) equipment such as cell phones.
This option was a recommendation from the ARC, which was composed of over 70 experts from the UAS industry who spent countless hours coming up with sensible guidance.
2. An exception for non-autonomous UAS
As proposed, the NPRM will affect the FPV community and recreational flyers the most. Of all the references the FAA uses in the NPRM to justify this regulation, there was not one example of ill intent or nefarious act by a member from those communities.
The major push for the restrictions in this NPRM seems to be driven by National Security experts who fear the use of UAS for terrorist acts. We showed over and over that none of the regulations in place would stop a nefarious actor from using UAS to hurt others. Anti-drone technology with UAS radars is likely to be more effective at detecting rogue aircraft and operators.
As such, and as recommended by the ARC, aircraft that cannot be pre-programmed with a flight path should be excluded from this regulation and allowed to fly at any site (without approval in uncontrolled airspace, and with LAANC approval in controlled airspace).
This approach would have several benefits:
- recreational flyers who usually remain within line of sight will be able to continue to do so without additional cost,
- there is no need for FAA-recognized identification areas,
- there will be a much higher compliance rate, making Remote ID a success rather than something that most people disregard,
- home-built kits won’t need to comply with expensive technology,
- there will still be a free option to fly affordable UAS and allow people to enter the hobby and keep an interest in aviation.
Nothing good will come out from sharing the location of the pilot with the public. This will only lead to unnecessary confrontations and muggings from thieves interested in expensive gear. There is no logical reason for the public to have access to the pilot location.
4. Remote ID is not the most effective method for National Security
We disagree that Remote ID would have a strong benefit when it comes to National Security. The general idea is that actors who want to use UAS for nefarious acts will disregard the law. The FAA should concentrate their efforts on anti-drone radar technology that would help identify the location of the threat without the need for Remote ID.
Did we miss anything?
Do you see anything missing? Leave a comment below and we will consider adding it to our list (with credit).
Submit your comment to the FAA
Now that you know the good, the bad, and the ugly about Remote ID, you are ready to write your own comment. Use the talking point above (remember don’t copy/paste) and craft your own response.
Submit it by following this link: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FAA-2019-1100-0001.
Remember that if your response is more than 5000 characters, you can submit it in the form of a PDF. You have until March 2, 2020 to send your comment, don’t delay.
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