This piece on Remote ID regulation originally published on Sept. 9, 2022, but has since been updated.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Remote ID regulation is set to go into effect next Friday — that’s Sept. 16, 2022. The Remote ID regulation has been a long time coming. And under it, the drones you fly will eventually have to be Remote ID-compliant. That means most drones will have to broadcast certain information about itself (such as its serial number) and its operation (such as its current position, emergency status, speed, the controller’s position, and a timestamp).
But if your drone doesn’t do that — don’t worry quite yet.
While the rule technically goes into effect this month, it goes into effect in phases. The first phase pertains to manufacturers only — stating that newly-manufactured drones must be Remote ID compliant. The second phase which applies to pilots doesn’t kick in until next year.
Here’s what you need to know:
A brief history of Remote ID in the U.S., and what the new rules are set to be
Many drone industry and aviation experts have long called for some sort of system to put license plates on drones, just as cars have. But because are so small and far away, they wouldn’t be physical license plates, but rather digital license plates.
After much deliberation, many committees and plenty of requests for public comment, the FAA in April 2021 published its Final Rule for Remote ID. In short, that rule requires drones to remotely identify themselves.
But while published in April 2021, the rule didn’t go into effect until next Friday. And even then, only part of it goes into effect. Remote ID is broken into two phases: the first is for drone manufacturers. The second is for drone pilots. For drone manufacturers, a lot is set to change. For drone pilots, noticeable changes on’t kick in until next year.
The Remote ID rules will apply to most drones though there are some exceptions including:
- drones flown for U.S. Department of Defense or other federal agencies with an exemption to the operating rules.
- flights within an FAA-recognized Identification Area (FRIA)
- drones that weigh 0.55 pounds or less and that are used exclusively for recreational purposes
And even still, the FAA has suggested that enforcement will be unlikely for the time being. A document set to publish on the Federal Register on Sept. 12 states that the FAA will exercise “its discretion whether to take enforcement action” between now and Dec. 16, 2022. That gives drone makers another three months to figure things out.
What changes for drone pilots with next Friday’s Remote ID regulation change
In short, nothing immediate. For regular drone operators, next Friday’s deadline doesn’t affect your everyday life. You can continue on piloting as normal for the next year.
However, come Sept. 16, 2023, drone pilots are only able to fly Remote ID-compliant drones (unless their flights fit in one of the exception categories, such as flights in an FAA-recognized Identification Area (FRIAs) or if the drone weighs 0.55 lbs or less, such as the DJI Mini 3 Pro.
Most of the big drone companies have said that, come September 2023, they intend to roll out software updates that would make current drones Remote ID-compliant. So don’t worry — your old drone likely won’t instantly become invalid, and you likely won’t have to buy a new one just to remain compliant. Your existing drone will likely be able to be made Remote ID compliant with an easy tap of the button on your end.
What changes for drone makers with next Friday’s Remote ID regulation change
A lot. Manufactured drones produced after Sept. 16, 2022 and operated in the U.S. must be Remote ID compliant (aside from the exceptions).
How drone companies are responding
A few of the major drone companies have already publicly stated how they intend to comply with the changes. Here’s a sampling of what we know so far from a handful of drone companies:
Auterion: Auterion is an open-source drone company, and it has said that any drone powered by its software can become Remote ID compliant via a software update. With the update, Auterion will add support for OpenDroneID, which implements ASTM F3411 specification for Remote ID and tracking.
DJI: DJI became the first drone manufacturer to submit and earn FAA approval for complying with the FAA’s Remote Identification protocol. More specifically, the FAA approved what’s called a “Declarations of Compliance” for seven DJI drones. They are:
- Mini 3 Pro
- Air 2S
- Mavic 3
- Mavic 3 Cine
Newly manufactured versions of those drones will be Remote ID compliant. If you already own those drones, you’ll need to download a free firmware update.
DJI also noted that models with Remote ID functionality include the notation “ASTM F3411-22a-RID-B” on the regulatory label attached to the drone.
Freefly: Freefly said that a recent software release makes its drones, which largely are used for cinematography, Remote ID compliant.
Skydio: California-based drone company Skydio — most famous for its crash-proof, follow-me drone called the Skydio 2 — said that — aside from the company’s exempted, military-grade Skydio X2D drones used by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies — all Skydio drones produced on or after September 16, 2022, will be built with Remote ID, as required by regulation.
Skydio added that its drones with Remote ID built-in will be clearly identified as such with a special label. And, per FAA requirements, built-in Remote ID will not be able to be disabled, and end users will not have the ability to turn off their drone’s Remote ID broadcast or alter any portion of the broadcast message.
If you currently own a Skydio drone (meaning one produced before Sept. 16, 2022), then your drone will not broadcast Remote ID information. Though, if you send in that drone for repair or replacement, you will receive it back with Remote ID built-in — regardless of its original manufacture date.
Skydio also said it intend to eventually issue a software update making its current drones Remote ID compliant by the 2023 deadline.
Skydio shared some screenshots of the app, demonstrating how it all works:
Important dates to know around Remote ID regulation
All that is a lot. Here’s a tl,dr of important dates to know:
- April 21, 2021: The FAA published its Final Rule for Remote ID.
- Sept. 16, 2022: Drones produced after this date and flown in the U.S. must be Remote ID compliant, though the FAA has indicated enforcement will be minimal-to-nonexistent for now.
- Dec. 16, 2022: The FAA has suggested it’ll more actively enforce Remote ID at this time.
- Sept. 16, 2023: Operators must begin using Remote ID-compliant drones.