FAA Remote ID rule drone

Big drone companies, including DJI, weigh in on FAA Remote ID rule

The new FAA Remote ID rule has been out for two days now, and after a clear processing period, many of the biggest players in the drone industry are starting to share their first, public reactions to the news.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday released its much-anticipated final rule on Remote Identification for drones, as well as the final rule on Operations over People with drones. The new FAA Remote ID rule requires that drones weighing 250 grams or more will have to be capable of being remotely identified in order to fly.

Drones that are not enabled with Remote ID tech either must way under 250 grams to remain compliant, or can only be operated in designated areas, called FRIAs (FAA-Recognized Identification Areas).

A few drone industry players weighed in publicly on the new rules within 24 hours of the news dropping. And the initial reaction to the new FAA Remote ID rule was pretty tame, with everyone accepting the news as good. Public statements have been very vanilla. It’s a sharp contrast to the FAA’s drone remote ID proposal, which was released in December 2019 and was extremely poorly received.

Here are some of the reactions to come from some of the drone industry’s biggest players:

DJI Mavic Mini drone 249 grams 250
DJI’s Mavic Mini weighs less than 250 grams, thus is not subject to the new FAA Remote ID rule.

DJI’s response to the new FAA Remote ID rule:

DJI released a brief statement in an email received Tuesday night by The Drone Girl.

“DJI has long supported the FAA’s Remote ID initiative because it will enhance drone accountability, safety and security. The FAA’s deliberative process of reviewing over 50,000 public comments has resulted in a rule that will serve the whole industry, as operators move on to more complex drone operations that save lives and benefit society. We are reviewing the final rule to understand how DJI can take steps towards complying with the FAA’s upcoming requirements.”

The news will certainly be interesting for DJI, as it seems that all operators — hobbyist or not — will need to comply with the Remote ID requirements if the drone they’re operating weighs 250 grams or more.

But here’s where DJI is in an interesting spot: one of DJI’s most popular consumer-oriented drones, the DJI Mavic Mini, weighs 249 grams exactly — and that’s not a coincidence. Besides fitting under the threshold for Remote ID, that’s 1 gram short of the Federal Aviation Administration’s threshold for when recreational pilots need to register your drone with the government.

And what’s more, DJI launched a modified version of its Mavic Mini specifically for Japan, which weighs just 199 grams. That’s the threshold to comply with Japan’s regulations on micro-UAVs.

DJI will likely have to make changes to their operations in order to sell drones in compliance with the new FAA Remote ID rules. Either that, or the Mavic Mini is going to become insanely popular (or some combination of the two will happen).

What the new Remote ID rule means for small businesses and other professional organizations

Sure, the new rule means that small businesses and other organizations using drones such as public safety agencies will likely need to modify or upgrade their drone fleets to remain compliant.

But for operators who have always flown under Part 107 (that’s required in order to fly drones commercially), the rules are welcome.

“These new drone regulations represent a huge step for U.S. drone pilots and the multitude of organizations and industries that employ sUAS in their operations,” said Alan Perlman, who runs UAV Coach, an online community and drone information hub, primarily known for its Part 107 drone training course called Drone Pilot Ground School. “The FAA — and the tens of thousands of drone pilots and organizations who submitted comments — put a lot of work into thinking this through.”

It’s especially good new for organizations like public safety departments who need to operate drones over people and at night. Previously, such rules required a waiver from the FAA, which was a cumbersome process.

The rules are now more straightforward, and compliance is a bit more approachable for those protecting us and saving lives with sUAS technology,” Perlman said. “That’s great news!”

“There’s still a lot to be clarified, but broad strokes, this is all a big deal, and we’re really excited to participate in the next chapter of U.S. drone regulations,” he said.

What the UTM companies are saying

Remote ID has been long seen as one of two big hurdles to overcome in order to reach widespread drone use. The second? UTM, which is short for unmanned traffic management (essentially air traffic control for drones).

And the companies that are working toward building UTM systems are largely pleased by the new rule.

“Today marks an important milestone for the drone and advanced air mobility industry,” said Bob Hammett, CEO of OneSky, in a prepared statement. “The FAA has done a tremendous job pulling together a Remote ID Cohort, drafting an initial set of rules, accepting public feedback, and now ultimately initiating a proposed Remote ID rule.”

OneSky, which was once a part of AGI and has separated into its own UTM company that makes digital traffic management software, has been involved in UTM for about five years.

The company is a part of the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), specific to Remote ID implementation, and also work the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). OneSky also participated in the FAA’s 2020 UTM Pilot Program to test its Remote ID tracking and data sharing using ASTM standards.

The big standout regarding OneSky’s response to the new Remote ID rule: the company seems to be in the minority about its stance on network capability implementation.

“While we are excited about the release of the Remote ID rule, we do believe the current regulation could potentially limit the acceleration of advanced drone services,” Hammett said. “By only mandating broadcast technology – as opposed to a broadcast and and network capability implementation – the rule focuses almost entirely on the safety case, rather than safety and efficiency, scalability, airspace accessibility.”

Backlash to mandating network capability implementation was strong when the initial Remote ID proposal came out last year. Drone advocates were particularly concerned about a proposed requirement that drones needed to fly with some sort of network connection, even in remote/rural areas where connections are limited.

Unfortunately, some rural areas don’t have adequate cell service, which means I could not be able to fly,” Thomas Atwood, Executive Director, The National Robotics Education Foundation and Director of AUVSI’s Florida Peninsula Chapter, said in a public comment submitted earlier this year. “Rural locations are frequently the safest places to fly because they are away from people, other aircraft and structures.”

Other big UTM companies have not commented on the network capability requirement, but have generally been pleased with the new Remote ID rule in their public statements.

What recreational drone advocates are saying

Recreational drone piloting groups that operate in an organized capacity are thrilled. That’s groups like the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which claims 200,000 members spread across more than 2,500 model airplane clubs across the country.

“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,” said Tyler Dobbs, Director of Government Affairs at the Academy of Model Aeronautics, in a prepared statement. “The rule sets forth requirements that will allow seasoned aviators and burgeoning pilots to continue enjoying our hobby responsibly.”

But those are all the official statements. What are regular people — the people who are the bread and butter of this industry — saying? Turns out, the Drone Girl community (yes, that includes you, reading this) is pretty great, and has already left insightful feedback. The comments section on yesterday’s post about day 1 reactions to the Remote ID rule is a great read. I highly checking out the thoughtful comments that people like you took the time to read yesterday.

One FPV pilot called out his concerns over a rule that “the person manipulating the flight controls is able to see the unmanned aircraft at all times throughout the operation.” That’s in many ways the antithesis to the joy of FPV piloting. Even if the drone were flying in circles around the pilot (though it’s often racing through nooks, crannies, arches and doorways), the pilot would likely have goggles on and not be able to see the drone anyway. Likely the rules could be interpreted that you could have a spotter with eyes constantly on the drone, but that prohibits racers from flying alone, which is often essential to practice.

Another small business owner cited concerns “about the cost surrounding retrofitting our existing fleet with Remote ID Broadcast Modules, but I am hoping we have enough time to add into our budget OR fund a suitable grant opportunity.” Luckily, pilots have more than 18 months to find that solution.

What do YOU think of the new rules? Keep this loop going by leaving a comment below!

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