This is the week the FAA’s Remote ID requirement for drones went into full effect in the United States.  “Wait a minute . . .” I can hear you saying.  “The Remote ID rules went into effect back in September last year, didn’t they?”   As with many things involving regulations and government, the answer yes, but . . .

The FAA’s Remote ID rule requires all UAS weighing over .55 pounds to be able to transmit a remote identification signal.  The UAS either has to have a built-in transponder or be retrofitted with attachable transponders.  While there are a few exceptions to the rule, such as hobby aircraft flown in specific, FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA), the rule applies to virtually all UAS. 

As the rule got closer and closer to its implementation date, it became clear that industry had been unable to produce anywhere near enough transponders to retrofit the vast majority of commercial UAS that need them.  Faced with this compliance gap, which the FAA estimated was nearly 600,000 UAS operators by the end of August, the FAA announced a change to its enforcement policy. 

Accordingly, the FAA will exercise its discretion in determining how to handle any apparent noncompliance, including exercising discretion to not take enforcement action, if appropriate, for any noncompliance that occurs on or before March 16, 2024—the six-month period following the compliance deadline for operators initially published in the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft final rule, RIN 2120–AL31. The exercise of enforcement discretion herein creates no individual right of action and establishes no precedent for future determinations.

See 88 FR 63518.  Thus, while the Remote ID rule has been “in effect” since September 2023, it has been in a sort of enforcement limbo up until now.

However, as expected, the FAA has not extended this enforcement policy as the FAA has concluded that there are sufficient Remote ID modules available for operators to be compliant with the rule.  The FAA noted in a recent press release that its light touch on enforcement officially ended on March 16, 2024, and

[o]perators who do not comply after that date could face fines and suspension or revocation of their drone pilot certificates.

Congress directed the FAA to develop standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of drones and issue regulations or guidance based on those standards.

Remote ID lays the foundation of the safety and security groundwork needed for more complex drone operations. It acts like a digital license plate and will help the FAA, law enforcement and other federal agencies locate the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it isn’t allowed to fly.

So, if you are not already Remote ID compliant, your grace period has officially ended.  Happy flying!