The FAA’s remote ID rule: Just one step in a long journey

With the FAA’s announcement of its remote ID rule ( the door to more flights over people and traffic - and night operations – is now open. But the new rule does not provide a clear path to understanding how remote ID can support more urban routine BVLOS operations as part of a UTM system and what technologies can be used for this.

The FAA has taken the approach of tailoring its requirements for night operations and operations over people with the expectation that all part 107 pilots have the same level of certification. The Agency did not propose authorizing routine beyond visual line of sight operations in this rulemaking; therefore, adding authorizations or ratings to address such operations is beyond the scope of the rule.

The FAA’s solution’s is a simple solution to a complex problem. It set up a cohort of companies - Airbus UTM, AirMap, Amazon, Intel, OneSky, Verizon Skyward, T-Mobile and Google’s Wing – to advise on what technologies and procedures should be used for network remote ID: that is, a remote ID system which could be used by UAS traffic management companies to manage traffic. But the cohort struggled to develop an agreement on the best technology that protected privacy but met the requirements for continuous position reporting and technical deconfliction along with reliant cyber security services. So the FAA had little choice but to leave that to some later data and in the meantime put something in place that would satisfy the near-term needs of federal and state organisations to monitor nearby drone traffic.

The FAA could have demanded, as per its original proposed rule, that drones identify themselves to a UTM network via a WIFI connection, with continuous position and identity reports. Instead, it has required drones to transmit their unique identifier, the aircraft’s position and the position of the operator once a minute to approved law enforcement agencies, who will be able to match the signal to the FAA’s drone registration database - or not.

Work now needs to start on developing new rules for network remote ID. The danger is that by being too technology agnostic the FAA could open the door to proposing a system which allows multiple systems working on multiple frequencies requiring many different on-board systems to somehow emerge. A more decisive, simpler approach which defines specs/procedures for frequencies, ground and airborne systems backed by new industry standards would be a much more valuable gift to the industry. CIVATAglobal will be canvassing views from industry and local authorities over the next few weeks to see what this new rule will mean for their drone operations and whether similar legislation should be adopted in other parts of the world.

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