As the UAS (unmanned aerial systems) market has expanded rapidly over the last few years, so too has the number of drones entering national airspaces for both commercial and recreational reasons. Now that the skies are becoming increasingly crowded, aviation authorities have come under pressure to create regulations and systems that will allow the drone industry to continue its accelerated growth while maintaining high levels of safety.
The main challenges are thus: minimizing the risk of collision between manned and unmanned aircraft, and providing a workable level of traceability and accountability in the event of a breach of rules or an accident. Both the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as well as other jurisdictions around the world, have settled on Remote ID as the solution.
Remote ID: A Brief Primer
Remote ID is a form of “digital license plate” technology for drones that allows the aircraft to broadcast crucial information such as aircraft identification and location. The version of this technology that was selected for initial implementation is known as Broadcast Remote ID in the USA and Direct Remote ID in the EU. The required information is broadcast wirelessly via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth over a limited distance, and can be received by any third party in the vicinity of the aircraft.
Basic FAA & EASA Remote ID Requirements
Both the FAA and EASA require registration for either drone operators or the aircraft, under certain conditions. For the EASA, this registration applies to drone operators (the person or company who owns or rents the drone) themselves, whereas FAA registration applies to the aircraft.
For both the FAA and EASA, registration is required for all drones weighing 250 grams (0.55 lbs) or more. Under EASA rules, operators must be registered to fly drones weighing less than this if they carry a camera or other sensor that can capture personal data, or if they are not officially classified as a toy under Directive 2009/48/EC. The FAA also requires drones under this weight limit to be registered if they do not operate exclusively under the FAA’s Exception for Recreational Flyers.
The FAA ruling states that any registered drone must also be Remote ID compliant. The EASA has made a number of exceptions and certain drones are exempt from Remote ID requirements based on certain characteristics under the EASA classification system:
-Tethered Class 3 drones – these weigh less than 25 kg including payload, are completely electrically-powered, have a tether with length of less than 50 metres, are equipped with a geo-awareness function, and must the pilot when battery is low with sufficient time to land.
-Class 4 drones – effectively model aircraft, weighing less than 25 kg with no automatic control modes other than flight stabilisation.
To find out more about EASA drone classification, click here to view the regulations.
There is a further exemption available for U.S. drone pilots – the use of FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs). Remote ID is not required while flying within these designated areas, which must be set up by community-based organizations or educational institutions.
All U.S. drone operators and manufacturers are now required to comply with the relevant Remote ID regulations, and the EASA has set a deadline of January 1st, 2024.
Other Similarities and Differences
Remote ID functionality can be implemented in one of two ways – via a capability built into the drone, or via an approved add-on module. The FAA has ruled that all new drones manufactured for use in the United States must have built-in Remote ID capability (known as Standard Remote ID), whereas the EASA has introduced no such restrictions. Owners of older drones in the United States do not have to purchase newer drones with Standard Remote ID, and are able to gain compliance via an add-on module. However, Standard Remote ID is legally required for operators wishing to carry out BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) operations.
The information that must be broadcast by Remote ID is largely similar in both jurisdictions, with a few minor differences. In both the United States and EU, Remote ID-compliant drones must broadcast:
-Drone serial number
-Drone latitude, longitude, altitude, heading and ground velocity
-Operator latitude, longitude and altitude (takeoff location can be used instead for EU add-on modules, and is required instead for US add-on modules)
-Emergency status indication (not required for add-on modules)
The FAA also requires the vertical speed of the drone and the altitude of the operator, and the EASA also requires the operator’s registration number.
In the near future, the FAA plans to roll out a new feature, known as Session ID, which will be a unique identifier randomly generated for each drone during each flight. This data will be visible to the FAA and law enforcement agencies, but not to the general public. Once implemented, Session ID will be an acceptable alternative to broadcasting the drone serial number.
The Future of Remote ID and UTM
In addition to Broadcast/Direct Remote ID, another version of the technology was also initially proposed. Network Remote ID is a concept that involves sending the required information to a third-party service provider via the internet. This provider could then store this information and disseminate it to relevant parties such as civil aviation authorities or law enforcement, thus limiting the potential for privacy breaches.
Network Remote ID would allow drones to be tracked and identified over longer ranges compared to the short broadcast distances of Direct Remote ID. This makes it an indispensable tool for UTM (unmanned traffic management) ecosystems, which will be required as complex operations in airspace shared with manned aircraft become more commonplace.
The FAA’s legislation has left room to accommodate the addition of Network Remote ID, although there are currently no concrete plans. The EASA has already stated that Network Remote ID will be required for participation in the EU’s U-space unmanned traffic management systems.
Remote ID has been designed to improve safety and reduce critical incidents as drones continue to populate civil and commercial airspace around the world. In addition to satisfying the concerns of aviation authorities and law enforcement, it will also accelerate the integration of more complex operations such as BVLOS flights and drone-based deliveries, allowing the industry to evolve further.
Remote ID and cellular communications with Elsight and Halo
Commercial drones operating in the airspaces of the future will require not only Remote ID capabilities, but also a robust connectivity solution that ensures the utmost of safety while performing complex missions such as BVLOS flights and operations over people. Elsight’s Halo solves both these problems in one low-SWaP (size, weight and power) hardware package.
Halo aggregates up to four cellular connections from multiple providers into one single link, enabling critical redundancy with smart bandwidth management and automatic hot failover. The versatile platform features built-in Broadcast/Direct and Network Remote ID that complies with both the current FAA and EASA regulations and has achieved FAA Declaration of Compliance (DOC) approval.
To find out more about how Halo can equip your drone platform to be ready for any airspace requirements, please get in touch.
How does Remote ID affect drone operators in Europe and the USA?
All registered drones in the USA must comply with the FAA’s Remote ID regulations, either via built-in capability or add-on module. Most drones that require operators to register with the EASA also require Remote ID, with the exception of certain tethered drones and model aircraft.
How do EASA Remote ID regulations differ from the FAA’s?
Remote ID regulations are largely similar in both jurisdictions. There are some slight differences in the types of drone that are required to comply, as well as in the information that must be broadcast via Remote ID.
When must drone operators comply with Remote ID regulations?
Drone operators in the U.S. have been required to comply since September 16 2023, and the EASA deadline is January 1st, 2024.