FAA denies requests to extend drone remote ID comment period

package delivery drone in flight

The Federal Aviation Administration’s drone remote identification rulemaking was years in the making, but the agency doesn’t want to give industry and drone users extra time to comment on its proposal.

The FAA issued its remote ID notice of proposed rulemaking in late December and gave the public until March 2 to submit comments. The 319-page proposal would require nearly all unmanned aircraft systems operating in the U.S. to broadcast or transmit identification information while they are flying. The rule originally was scheduled to be issued last May but did not appear in the Federal Register until Dec. 31.

In the weeks since the proposal was published, Airlines for America (A4), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the Experimental Aircraft Association, as well as a handful of other commenters, all separately requested extensions of the comment period.

A4A, the trade association for U.S. airlines, said its supports a rule requiring remote ID for drones as a “critical first step to enhance safety and security,” but said more time is needed for A4A and its members to consider the implications of the proposal and respond to the numerous issues it raises.

AOPA, which represents general aviation pilots, said the proposal will impact millions of individual domestic and international aviation stakeholders and that a 60-day comment period with several holidays included is not enough time.

Scott Shtofman, owner of a Quad Axis LLC, a Texas-based commercial drone operator, said the rule is highly controversial, complex and raises serious legal concerns.

To date, the FAA has received more than 9,300 comments on the rule, which is seen as an important step in finalizing other rules that would allow drones to operate close to people on the ground and lay the foundation for beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations and unmanned traffic management, all of which are critical to commercial drone usage for package delivery and urban air mobility.

The proposal also has been a hot topic on blogs and other electronic forums. DJI, the Chinese company that dominates the drone manufacturing industry, said the FAA has proposed a “complex, expensive and intrusive system” that would make it harder to use drones in the U.S.

In a lengthy blog post on DJI’s website, Brendan Schulman, the company’s vice president of policy and legal affairs, wrote: “Everyone understands why cars need license plates: drivers have to be accountable. But what if instead of just a license plate, your car was also legally required to be connected via the internet to a privately run car-tracking service that charged you an annual fee of about 20% of your car’s value, and stored six months of your driving data for government scrutiny? Would you think the government had gone too far?”

In denying the extension request, FAA said lengthening the comment period and further delays in finalizing the rule would not be consistent with the safety and security objectives of the rule.

Certifying delivery drones

Separately, the FAA said Monday that it is accepting comments on how it should certify drones for package delivery and other commercial operations. The agency is proposing that unmanned aerial systems, which include drones and the equipment necessary to fly them, be certified as a special class of aircraft, rather than under the rules for aircraft and helicopters.