Thanks to the explosion in UAS (unmanned aerial systems) technology development, drones are now a mainstream and highly accessible tool in many different commercial sectors. As with many other industries, now that the “Wild West” early days are over, new regulations must be brought in so that commercial drone operations can continue to progress without any concessions to safety and security.
The main concerns that have arisen with the increased proliferation of drones in national airspaces around the world are twofold. First, how can we enable drones to share the increasingly crowded skies with manned aircraft while minimizing risk of collision, and secondly, how can we ensure an acceptable level of accountability should something go wrong? Remote ID is the drone industry’s attempt to solve these two pain points.
Improving safety and security with drone Remote ID
Remote ID is a method of broadcasting information that allows interested parties to determine crucial information regarding what a drone is doing, where it came from, and what to do if the aircraft does something it shouldn’t.
This information is broadcast wirelessly over a limited distance, and can be received by anyone in the vicinity of the aircraft. In the case of newly-manufactured drones, Remote ID may be built directly into the system. Older drones can be retrofitted by means of an approved add-on module. Many drone models will already have the potential capability to broadcast Remote ID-compliant information, and so it may be also possible to bring them up to date via a firmware upgrade from the manufacturer, without the need to install any additional hardware.
Manufacturer and user compliance with Remote ID
According to the U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) ruling on Remote ID, the following information must be broadcast:
Drone or module serial number
Drone latitude, longitude, altitude and velocity
Latitude, longitude and altitude of the ground control station (for drones with built-in Remote ID) or takeoff point (for addon modules)
Emergency status indication (for drones with built-in Remote ID only)
No standard method of broadcasting has been defined, and so this information can be transmitted by any wireless method – whether that be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or another portion of the RF spectrum that can be received by personal devices – as long as an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) broadcast license is not required.
The time for manufacturer compliance has already passed, and right now all drone models must be approved by the FAA before they can be sold in the U.S. Most drone operators have a little more time – they must ensure that their equipment is compliant by September 16th 2023. There is an exception for recreational drones that weigh less than 250 grams (0.55 pounds), but no such exception for any commercial drone platforms.
Additionally, operators wishing to carry out certain categories of operations over people as defined by the FAA Part 107 regulations require Remote ID capabilities effective immediately.
The FAA ruling also states that operators flying drones at special FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIAs) will be exempt from Remote ID requirements. A detailed application to set up such an area must be made by entities such as educational facilities or community-based organizations.
The benefits of Remote ID for drone operators
Remote ID is designed to improve safety for a world in which the number of unmanned aircraft in civil and commercial airspace continues to grow every day. One of the ways in which this may occur is the reduction of incidents in which drones fly too close to restricted areas such as airports, hospitals and power plants. High-profile incidents, such as the much-publicized one at the UK’s Gatwick Airport in 2018, can set back progress for the commercial drone industry and lower public opinion.
While the primary effect of Remote ID is to satisfy the concerns of security agencies and law enforcement, the knock-on effect of this will be that it clears the way for the expansion of commercial drone operations. The addition of standardized safety protocols should also simplify the paperwork for more complex and risky drone operations such as cargo delivery and operations over people. Currently, applying for and achieving waivers for some of these operations is a time-consuming and arduous task.
The future of Remote ID – enhancing collaboration and communication
In addition to providing traceability and accountability, Remote ID is also the first step towards developing a more sophisticated framework for coordinating drone operations on a large scale. The implementation currently being mandated by FAA legislation, as well as the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), is known as Broadcast Remote ID. When initial proposals were being made, another potential implementation known as Network Remote ID was also considered. Network Remote ID involves the use of an internet connection to transfer the required information to a third-party service provider, who would store it and disseminate to relevant parties such as the FAA or law enforcement as required.
Network Remote ID would make it easier to coordinate the locations and movements of drones with those of manned aircraft, which are already tracked via air traffic management systems. The combination of these two sources of information would allow strategic deconfliction of shared airspace, minimizing the risk of collisions and other issues.
Network Remote ID was ultimately not chosen for the initial implementation largely due to infrastructure issues. A working UTM (unmanned traffic management) ecosystem would need to be established first in order to successfully integrate the large volume of information on UAS operations with existing ATM systems. Additionally, Network Remote ID requires each drone to maintain a connection to the internet, and coverage in many areas is not yet sufficient enough to make this a reality.
Once these issues are solved, however, a functional UTM system backed by Remote ID could unlock commercial BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) drone operations on a large scale. The FAA’s legislation has left room to accommodate a potential future shift towards Network Remote ID, so it is likely only a matter of time before this next evolution occurs. Outside of the United States, the concept is also being explored, and Switzerland has already implemented a functional drone Remote ID network.
A communications solution that supports both Broadcast and Network Remote ID
As we have outlined, new UAS platforms developed for commercial applications in the US and elsewhere require a built-in Broadcast Remote ID capability. In the future, access to Network Remote ID and UTM suppliers is also likely to be a must-have especially if you are looking to operate BVLOS.
What is Remote ID for drones?
Remote ID is a form of “digital drone license plate” that enables interested third parties to determine certain information about a drone in flight, such as its serial number, position, altitude, and location of its pilot.
Why is Remote ID important for drone manufacturers?
Compliance with Remote ID regulations will allow drone manufacturers to legally sell their products within a particular region.
How can Remote ID help drone operators?
The use of Remote ID improves general safety and security within the national airspace system, thus further legitimizing the use of commercial drones in the eye of the public as well as helping to usher in further use cases and more complex operations such as BVLOS.
https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/remote_id – the FAA’s landing page for all relevant information on Remote ID
https://www.elsight.com/astm-matrix/ – a detailed breakdown of Halo’s compliance with Remote ID requirements according to the ASTM F3411 standard
https://pilotinstitute.com/utm-faa/ – an article providing further details on how Remote ID could interface with unmanned traffic management systems to facilitate BVLOS operations