DOT issues long-delayed proposed rule on remote ID for drones

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday finally issued a proposed rule requiring nearly all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operating in U.S. airspace to broadcast or transmit identification and location information while they are flying. The proposed rule originally was scheduled to be issued in May.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Dec. 31. Publication of the 319-page proposal triggers a 60-day public comment period. After FAA collects and digests those comments, it will issue a final rule, but it is unclear when the final rule will be issued.

“While we are still reviewing the details of the proposed remote identification rule, we are pleased that the FAA is finally moving forward with rulemaking for remote ID standards after four delays,” Brian Wynne, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said in response to release of the proposed rule. “We have long called for the establishment and implementation of these standards, which will increase the safety and security of the airspace and advance the UAS industry beyond what is currently possible.”

The Small UAV Coalition, which includes companies such as Amazon Prime Air, Intel and Verizon among its members, said Thursday it welcomes the NPRM as a critical step in continuing to develop a risk-based regulatory framework that will enable commercial UAS operations at scale.

FAA defines remote ID as the ability of an unmanned aircraft, or drone, in flight to provide certain identification and location information that people on the ground and other airspace users can receive.

The proposed rule establishes operating requirements for drone operators and so-called “performance-based” design and production requirements for manufacturers of unmanned aircraft. The rule also envisions development of a network of remote ID UAS service suppliers (Remote ID USS), under contract to FAA, that would collect identification and location information in real time from in-flight drones.

The proposed rule establishes design and production requirements for two basic categories of remote identification: standard remote identification UAS and limited remote identification UAS.

Standard remote identification UAS would be required to broadcast identification and
location information directly from the unmanned aircraft and simultaneously transmit that information to a Remote ID USS through an internet connection.

Limited remote identification UAS would be required to transmit information through the internet but would not be required to broadcast the information. Drones that fall into this category, however, would be designed to operate no more than 400 feet from the control station.

The type of information that UAS in either category will be required to broadcast and/or transmit includes the drone’s serial number or a unique flight ID number generated by a Remote ID USS, the latitude and longitude of the drone control station, the altitude of the drone and of the control station, and a time reference.

The limited number of UAS that don’t fall into either category and are not equipped with remote ID technology, such as certain amateur-built aircraft, would be restricted to flying in certain geographic areas established to accommodate them.