The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday released its final rule on Remote Identification for drones, alongside a few other rules for the drone industry such as establishing rules for flying drones over people and at night. The new Remote ID rule means drones will have to be capable of being remotely identified in order to fly, either directly through the drone or through an add-on module. Without it, the drone either will need to weigh less than 250 grams, or you’ll have to resort to flying in a designated area recognized by the FAA where Remote ID is not required.
It’s only been a day since the rule has been out, so perhaps people are still processing all the information (after all, the full text of the Remote ID rule is hundreds of pages long — 470, to be exact). But so far, the response to the new rules have been very vanilla — and that’s not a bad thing. The drone industry reaction has been a resounding ‘this seems fine.’
It’s a sharp shift from the outcry to the FAA’s drone remote ID proposal, which was released this week last year. The proposed rules were very poorly received, with industry experts calling it “unnecessary and completely government over reach,” “devastating for STEM” and “disappointing.”
Recreational drone and model aircraft advocacy group the Academy of Model Aeronautics launched a coalition to protect the hobby model aviation industry, and its first major project was fighting for a different remote ID rule. Even Google sister company Wing issued a lengthy statement outlining its disappointment about the proposed remote ID rules.
As is standard procedure, the FAA opened its proposal up for public comment. What’s less standard is that these rules received more than 10,000 public comments. Among the common themes:
- Concerns over needing to fly with some sort of network connection, even in remote/rural areas where connections are limited
- Fear that over-regulation would make it tougher for law enforcement and emergency responders to operate drones quickly given the otherwise lengthy approval process
- Worries about cost burdens for hobbyists and small businesses
- Concerns that the new rule would restrict flights outside ‘Recreational Flight Fields’ but that are in otherwise safe-to-fly areas, like AMA fields
So far, any backlash to the new Remote ID rule is limited, or nonexistent.
“Thankfully, this final rule addresses many of the concerns expressed by tens of thousands of hobbyists during the rulemaking process,” said Tyler Dobbs, Director of Government Affairs at the Academy of Model Aeronautics, in a prepared statement. “The final remote ID rule prioritizes the safety and security of the national airspace, while also accommodating the longstanding, safe hobby of flying model aircraft. The rule sets forth requirements that will allow seasoned aviators and burgeoning pilots to continue enjoying our hobby responsibly.”
And other drone advocates and insiders seem to agree.
Response to FAA-Recognized Identification Areas
Among the standout wins in the new Remote ID rule for the AMA: the ability to fly without Remote ID, as long as you’re operating in what the FAA is calling FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (or FRIA), which are “geographic areas recognized by the FAA where unmanned aircraft not equipped with Remote ID are allowed to fly.”
Those areas have not been defined yet, but the FAA said organizations can apply to make some or all of their land a FRIA. It’s likely that most or all of the AMA’s nearly 2,400 fixed flying sites across the country will receive FRIA status.
Response to FAA-Recognized Identification Areas
Among the biggest concerns in the initial Remote ID proposal was that drones would have to transmit their identifying information either over the internet or via broadcast. That was concerning especially to operators in remote areas, where connections are limited.
“The final rule also includes a sensible solution for operating outside of FAA-Recognized Identification Areas with the use of remote identification broadcast modules,” Dobbs said. “This option eliminates the internet connectivity requirement that was included in the proposed rule and allows for retrofitting existing model aircraft.”
Response to rules around flying drones at night
DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, has yet to issue a statement on its response to the proposed Remote ID rules. But the company’s Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs at DJI, Brendan Schulman, who is generally pretty vocal about drone laws on his Twitter account — appropriately named @dronelaws — did call out one component of the new rules that will be a win for the ‘drones for good’ cause.
Response to the expense associated with the new rules
Still, there’s going to be expenses involved in the new rules. For pilots, that’s going to mean either purchasing a broadcast module to add on to existing drones. Drones without that broadcast module become defunct. Or, that means purchasing entirely new drones and giving fleets a complete overhaul — which could be expensive particularly for small businesses that have invested in their drone fleet.
It’s also left some in the drone industry wondering about the expense of actually broadcasting that signal.
The bottom line on the Remote ID rule
All in all, it seems that most drone industry advocates are happy that there’s some sort of guidance that drone manufacturers, individual pilots and enterprise operations can adhere to so they can continue to scale in compliance with these newly established laws.
With rules to adhere to, most in the industry expert that drone operations such as drone delivery or search & rescue can advance at a more rapid clip than the often sluggish tempo they’ve currently operated at.
What do you make of the FAA’s final Remote ID rule? Do you love it? Hate it? Or somewhere in between? Leave a comment below!