The future of drones is finally here!  After an 18 month delay, the FAA has released a draft of the new rules for remote identification of unmanned aircraft.  The draft rule weighs in at over 300 pages, and provides a comprehensive roadmap for the full implementation of the Remote ID system.

The proposed Remote ID system relies heavily on third party service providers, which are expected to collect identification and location data from UAs in-flight in real-time. The Remote ID service providers will perform this service under contract with the FAA, based on the same model the FAA currently uses for the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). In order to be selected as a service provider, a company must demonstrate that it has:

(1) The ability to share the remote identification message elements in near real-time with the FAA upon request;

(2) The ability to maintain remote identification information securely and to limit access to such information;

(3) The ability to meet contractually-established technical parameters; and

(4) The ability to inform the FAA when their services are active and inactive.

The provider will also have to demonstrate its ability to meet national security and cybersecurity requirements, as well as export administration regulations. The FAA will also conduct oversight of the provider to ensure compliance and the quality of the service.

The FAA’s willingness to accommodate an unregulated hobby industry appears to be waning, as the FAA is not drawing a distinction between hobby and recreational aircraft for purposes of the Remote ID system.  All UAS operations will fall within the rule, with the exception of some amateur-built UAS, government aircraft, and unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 0.55 pounds.

UAS will generally fall into two categories.  The first category, referred to as “standard remote identification UAS,” will require the aircraft to broadcast a remote identification signal and simultaneously transmit the remote ID information to the service provider via the internet.  The second category, referred to as “limited remote identification aircraft,” only have to transmit the remote ID information to the service provider over the internet, but the aircraft cannot be flown more than 400’ from the control station.  The data sent to the service provider includes:

  • The identity of the UAS consisting of one of the following:

o The serial number assigned to the unmanned aircraft by the producer.

o Session ID assigned by a Remote ID USS.

  • An indication of the latitude and longitude of the control station and unmanned aircraft.
  • An indication of the barometric pressure altitude of the control station and unmanned aircraft. · A Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) time mark.
  • An indication of the emergency status of the UAS, which could include lost-link or downed aircraft.

The Remote ID system will be linked to the aircraft registration system.  As a result, multiple hobby aircraft will no longer be permitted to share the same “owner based” registration number, and each model  aircraft will have to have its own, unique ID number.  Manufacturers will be required to include serial numbers on all unmanned aircraft, and the aircraft’s serial number will be included in the aircraft registration.

As expected, the Remote ID system does not focus on the use of ADS-B for unmanned aircraft.  In fact, the draft rule prohibits a UAS to employ ADS-B without prior FAA approval.  The FAA determined that there were too many issues with the performance of ADS-B at low altitude and there were risks that the system would become saturated by large numbers of UAS flying in a relatively small area.

The new rules, which will be officially published in the Federal Register on December 31, 2019, will be open for a 60-day Notice and Comment period.  During that period, any interested persons may submit their views on the draft rule to the FAA.  The FAA will then analyze the public comments, revise the draft if appropriate, and then release the final rule.  The new rules will be phased in over three years from the adoption of the rule.  In addition, after 2 years, non-compliant UAs may not be manufactured for sale in the United States.

This is by far the most important UAS rulemaking since the release of Part 107.  Readers should mark their calendar for 1 PM on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020, when the Fox Rothschild aviation team will present a free 90 minute webinar on the new rules.  We will do a deep dive into all aspects of the rule, and provide our unique take on how the rules will shape the future of aviation, and who the winners and losers will be as this process moves forward.

So watch this space, as we will be providing you with the information necessary to register for our free webinar in the near future.