It’s official, small unmanned aerial vehicles, sUAV, what we call drones, require remote identification before they can fly. The Final Rule was submitted to the Federal Registrar for publication on December 28th, 2020, was finalized and published in early 2021, and the official effective date for Remote ID is April 21, 2021.
With the new Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft (Part 89) rules published, manufacturers will have 18 months to ensure that all new machines are equipped, and pilots will have 30 months to retrofit any drones they wish to continue to operate. That’s right, practically all of the drones you have today will never legally fly again after October 21, 2023, at least not without some modifications.
Don’t panic, there are things you can do to keep flying. Let’s explore the important bits of the FAA’s Remote ID rules for pilots in the Unites States.
Part 89 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations summary
We will have to cover all of the bits and pieces of this rule in more detail in the future, but for now, here are the key highlights:
- All drones that are required to be registered with the FAA will need to remotely identify.
- Remote ID will be a local broadcast over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the need for a network/internet transmission has been removed!
- There are three ways to comply: Standard Remote ID in the aircraft, a Remote ID Broadcast Module, or operations within a FAA pre-approved flight area.
- Drones must self-test, and will not be able to take-off if the Remote ID is not functioning.
- The rule expands the role that state and local law enforcement can take in policing drone law violations.
As we mentioned in the proposed rule in early 2020, ADS-B is prohibited as a means to meet Remote ID requirements. Your drone may continue to receive ADS-B transmissions, like your DJI drones now do, but you’ll need to apply for special authorization to put an ADS-B transmitter or ATC transponder on your drone.
Option 1: Standard Remote ID broadcast
- Your aircraft’s serial number or session ID will be transmitted, as with latitude, longitude, altitude, and velocity.
- Your ground station (remote control) latitude, longitude, and altitude are included as well.
- Finally, the broadcast includes an Emergency Status and Time Mark.
The information in the broadcast will be available to personal wireless devices in range, however, access to the Serial Number or Session ID database is limited to the FAA, and will only be made available to authorized law enforcement and national security personnel upon request. Bottom line, your personal information is protected, but your location while flying is not.
Option 2: Remote ID Broadcast Module
Drones produced in the future are expected to use the Standard Remote ID method above, but for your older, or otherwise non-compliant drones, you may use a third-party Remote ID Broadcast Module affixed to your drone.
- You will need to add the serial number of the Remote ID Module in the record of your drone’s registration with the FAA. (We’re unsure if you can use the same module on multiple drones at this time.)
- The Broadcast Module will transmit its serial number, latitude, longitude, altitude, and velocity, plus the latitude, longitude, and altitude of the take-off location, and a time mark.
- Drones equipped with Broadcast Modules are not eligible for operations beyond visual line of site.
The Remote ID Broadcast Module is a decent solution for drones that are not equipped with GPS.
Option 3: FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA)
Beginning 18 months after this new rule goes into effect, organizations are eligible to apply for FRIA compliance. These are geographic areas where drones not equipped with remote ID can fly.
- Eligible organizations include your local hobby flight group, and schools.
- Drones in these areas are not eligible for operations beyond visual line of site.
- We’re unsure if these are public use flight areas, or if you must be registered and authorized with the local organization in order to fly in that zone.
Night flight, operation over people and cars, changes to Part 107 license
In addition to the Remote ID rules above, the FAA is also publishing new rules for flights at night, flight over top of people and/or cars, and changes to the Part 107 licensing requirements. Learn more about the new FAA Part 107 rules here.
Current Part 107 certified pilots may start taking this new training after April 6, 2021.
Stay tuned for more information on all of the above.
Timeline of updates
January 12, 2021: The folks at InterDrone have a lengthy video discussion on this topic.
March 2021: The rule has been finalized, effective date is April 21, 2021.
April 21, 2021: Remote ID is live! New drones released after today will begin to have built-in Remote ID, all drones built after October 2022 must have Remote ID built in, and you have until October 2023 to upgrade or replace your existing fleet.