Network Remote ID and the Future of Drone Operations

By Ronny Vatelmacher - VP product and Business Development | November 27th, 2023

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Network Remote ID: An Introduction

In the last decade, the use of UAS (unmanned aerial systems) for civilian applications has expanded massively. Drones are now used commercially for a wide variety of use cases in almost every industry imaginable, from real estate to agriculture, as well as for supporting government and public safety operations.

This increase in numbers comes with an increase in risk of collision – with people and property, with each other, and with manned aircraft. In order to prevent the drone industry from stagnating, new technologies were required that would enhance situational awareness for everyone sharing the airspace, as well as providing a method of implementing traceability and accountability for operators in the case of an accident, breach of regulations, or other unsafe incident.

Led by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with support from industry and standards bodies, Remote ID was developed as a solution to these issues.

Initial implementations of Remote ID

The initial form of Remote ID that was settled on for implementation in many jurisdictions around the world is known as Broadcast Remote ID, also called Direct Remote ID in the EU. Billed as a form of “digital license plate” technology for drones, Broadcast Remote ID transmits essential information such as drone ID number, position and heading, and operator location over short ranges. This information broadcast can be picked up by any third party with a receiver in the vicinity.

Network Remote ID vs Broadcast Remote ID

Broadcast Remote ID has a number of limitations that make it only a temporary solution to the needs of national airspaces and the drone industry. Chief among these is the short-range nature of the broadcasts, which are delivered either via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This limited range will make it hard for Broadcast Remote ID to support operations such as BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) flights, where drones will cover long distances and large geographical areas, and will need to continually provide information on their location and heading in order to operate safely.

The ability for anyone, not just law enforcement and aviation agencies, to potentially access information on a drone as well as its operator has also raised privacy concerns. Many users are concerned that open availability of location data could lead to equipment theft as well as harassment.

Another form of Remote ID has been developed that has the potential to significantly mitigate these issues. Network Remote ID involves the use of an Internet connection, typically cellular 4G or 5G, to send the required information to a trusted service supplier. This third-party organization is then responsible for disseminating the information to law enforcement, government agencies, and air traffic control as required.

The main reason that the FAA decided not to adopt Network Remote ID for the initial implementation was that vast areas of the United States do not have the necessary cellular coverage to make it viable. In addition, a network of UTM (unmanned traffic management) services needs to be developed in order to make the most of Network Remote ID and support advanced operations such as BVLOS and autonomous flights in shared airspace.

The FAA continues to explore the possibility of Network Remote ID while these issues are being tackled, and has left room in its legislation for possible future implementation. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has stated that Network Remote ID will be mandatory for participation in U-space, which is the management of drones within a volume of airspace defined by each member state in which unmanned and manned aircraft will be able to co-exist. The ultimate goal of U-space is for automated and BVLOS drones to be able to operate safely and securely, thus allowing the industry to scale beyond its current limitations.

Network Remote ID for unmanned traffic management

Another disadvantage of Broadcast Remote ID is that messages are composed in a fixed inflexible format and transmitted via one-way communication. Network Remote ID has the potential to enable two-way communication, which allows for strategic deconfliction between multiple aircraft. This ability is crucial for the widespread integration of automated BVLOS flights into the national airspace.

Network Remote ID also includes the possibility for different data messages to be tailored for different audiences. Other aircraft, law enforcement, and the general public can all have access to only the particular details that are relevant and necessary for them, making operations more efficient and mitigating privacy concerns. The caveat is that robust cybersecurity protocols will have to be implemented in order to protect the larger volumes of data being generated by this significantly more complex system.

Network Remote ID in the EU

Under the EASA’s framework for the development of U-space, Network Remote ID is the first of four stages in the roadmap to complete implementation, which also includes geo-awareness, co-ordination with manned air traffic control, and flight authorization. These services will be provided by qualified private companies acting as U-space service providers (USSPs), rather than government bodies.

Currently, development of U-Space is progressing very gradually. According to a report published in October 2022 by the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol), just 17% of EU member states were projected to have implemented Network Remote ID by 2023, with this number rising to 41% by 2025.

The world’s first functional drone Remote ID network has already been established in Switzerland, and is compliant with both EASA regulations and the ASTM F3411 standard. The system is backed by an open source U-space service provider platform and is currently operating on a voluntary basis, allowing drone users to supply information that can be shared with relevant stakeholders.

Conclusion

Network Remote ID will be an essential component of the wider integration of drones into modern society, and will help the industry level up by enabling BVLOS, full automation, flights over people, and other operations that are deemed to be higher risk. Drone operators and OEMs looking to future-proof their platforms should consider incorporating hardware that is Network Remote ID-capable into their systems.

Satisfying Remote ID requirements with Elsight’s Halo

To successfully utilize Network Remote ID and communicate with UTM (unmanned traffic management systems), commercial drones will require a cellular communications system. Elsight’s Halo platform is a proven system that has already helped a variety of BVLOS drone platforms around the world take flight, providing critical redundancy thanks to its automatic hot failover capabilities and the ability to utilize up to four cellular connections from multiple providers.

The low-SWaP (size, weight and power) hardware already supports both Broadcast and Network Remote ID, and has been awarded FAA Declaration of Compliance (DOC) approval. With this all-in-one capability, systems integrators can save not only on resources but also on hardware costs, doing away with the need for a separate Remote ID module. Elsight has also recently added an innovative beta feature that allows users to view other Broadcast Remote ID transmitters in the vicinity.

To find out how Halo could help your UAS platform integrate into shared airspace and carry out advanced commercial drone operations, please get in touch.

FAQs

What is the difference between Broadcast and Network Remote ID?

Broadcast Remote ID transmits information over a short distance via a close-range communications technology such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and can be picked up by anyone with the appropriate receiver. Network Remote ID uses an internet connection to send information to a third-party service supplier who will then pass it on to air traffic control, law enforcement, or government agencies as required.

What are the advantages of Network Remote ID?

Network Remote ID allows information to be transmitted over a longer range, making it essential for safe integration of BVLOS and automated operations and thus the scaling up of the drone industry. It also allows for two-way communication, enabling complex strategic deconfliction between aircraft.

When will I need Network Remote ID?

Currently, the United States FAA has no concrete plans for the implementation of Network Remote ID, although this is likely to change at some point in the future. The EASA has confirmed that Network Remote ID will be mandatory for participation in U-space, and the completion date for this will vary for each member state.

Related Resources

The 2022 report by Eurocontrol detailing the state of completion of U-space services across EU member states

The EASA’s set of regulations governing U-space

A comprehensive primer to all things Remote ID

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