FAA New Proposed Rule Making

  • FAA NPRM

As you probably know by now, the FAA released its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM).

According to the FAA ,"Remote ID" is the next step to enable safe, routine drone operations across our nation. This capability will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and Federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction.

While this sounds awesome in a more general sense, the rules that are being proposed are not quite friendly to commercial drone pilots, businesses that want to use drones, and millions of hobbyists around the country. Many points in the rules are causing additional costs, privacy issues, difficult technical requirements, and even some safety issues.

We have read the 300 plus pages (now compressed into 89 page final document) and have some real issues with what is being proposed.

Here is the breakdown of the rules and our take on the areas we see need improvements or removed altogether. 


Standard Remote ID Connecting To Remote ID USS Via Internet
  • The FAA proposes that a Standard Remote Identification UAS is capable of “connecting to the internet and transmitting through that internet connection to a Remote ID (RID) UAS Service Supplier (USS)” (p. 72440).
    • This would require a Standard RID UAS to be equipped with an internet connection. The amount of data that needs to be transferred will be an additional financial burden on all operators and/or pilots, including all hobbyists. If the UAS itself is equipped with an internet connection, the operator would need a SIM card installed and would have to pay the cost of an additional line. The amount of data being transferred is currently not in the proposal so that factor remains unknown.
      Wireless carriers in the US say that an additional data plan to a current plan would cost anywhere from $35 to $70 per month. This is a burden many hobbyists and startup businesses cannot afford, especially with multiple UAS's .
      • The proposed 14 CFR Part §89.110(a)(2) (p. 72917) states that “if the internet is unavailable at takeoff, or if during the flight, the unmanned aircraft system can no longer transmit through an internet connection to a Remote ID USS, the standard remote identification unmanned aircraft system must broadcast the message elements directly from the unmanned aircraft.” 
        The broadcast functionality is enough to meet all requirements of Remote ID. And requiring only Standard RID UAS “broadcast” should remove the financial burden for all operators and/or pilots and still satisfy the requirements for the aircraft to share the necessary information with all the needed agencies.

Limited Remote ID UAS Internet Connection
  1. Limited Remote ID UAS will be required to establish an internet connection prior to take off, otherwise the UAS will be grounded. (XII.D.6 on page 72475).
    • Operators would be unnecessarily limited to flying in areas where internet connection is available, which limits a lot of places in the country where flying would otherwise be legal and safe. This option would also force certain operators to upgrade to more expensive data packages with their cell phone providers.
      • The ARC proposed a reasonable solution that would make Limited Remote ID unnecessary. With the Tier 1 method proposed by the ARC in VI. 3. (p. 72458), UAS could either broadcast or connect to the internet, which would eliminate the need for internet connectivity where it is not readily available.

Remote ID for Amateur-Built FPVs
  • Under the current proposal, under 14 CFR §89.1, the FAA defines an amateur-built unmanned aircraft as a UAS “the major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by a person who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation.” (p. 72517)
    • This has a huge impact on the FPV community! FPV aircraft would be limited to FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIAs currently called AMA fields - Academy of Model Aeronautics). 
      No amateur builder would be able to equip their UAS with remote ID technology to allow them to fly outside of the FRIA. The wording also prevents amateur builders from purchasing a pre-approved remote ID “kit” that they could use to retrofit their aircraft.
      • In section VI. A. 1. on p. 72457, the ARC proposed that only UAS with the “ability of the aircraft to navigate between more than one point without direct and active control of the pilot” would be required to comply with Remote ID. This is a reasonable solution that would exclude FPV aircraft from this regulation.

        Alternatively, the FAA could allow amateur-built aircraft to be equipped with remote ID designed by a third-party. So the UAS builder would not be required to meet the requirements of Sub-part F.


Home Built Restricted to FAA Recognized Identification Areas
  • According to the proposed 14 CFR §89.120: “A person may operate an unmanned aircraft system that does not meet the requirements for a standard remote identification unmanned aircraft system under § 89.110 or a limited remote identification unmanned aircraft system under § 89.115 only if the requirements of (a) or (b) are met.

    (a) Operations at FAA-recognized identification areas. Unless otherwise authorized by the administrator:
    (1) The unmanned aircraft system is operated within visual line of sight.
    (2) The unmanned aircraft system is operated within an FAA-recognized identification area.
    (b) Operations for aeronautical research. The person is authorized by the administrator to operate the unmanned aircraft system without remote identification for the purpose of aeronautical research or to show compliance with regulations.”

    • This regulation would have the biggest impact on the home built and FPV community. It will also have a major impact on compliance. It is clear, based on the current feedback, that many will ignore Remote ID if it is proposed under the current form, making the concept dead on arrival.
      • As proposed above, if home built are excluded from the requirement for Remote ID on the basis that they cannot navigate between more than one point without active control, there is no longer a need for FAA-recognized identification areas.


Sharing the Location of the Operator/Pilot
  • In section VI. B. on p. 72460, “the FAA is not proposing for the identity of the owner of the UAS to be included in the message elements, because the message elements would generally be available to the public. The message elements that the FAA is proposing are the minimum necessary to achieve the FAA’s safety and security goals while avoiding potential privacy concerns.”

    • Making the control station location information available to the public will undeniably lead to angry and possibly deadly encounters between the public and UAS operators.
      • In a first step, the FAA needs to add a section in the NPRM regarding Public access to Remote Identification and spell out their reasoning regarding allowing the public to access the operator’s location. We do understand the need for access to this data by the FAA and law enforcement agencies, provided:

        (1) These agencies receive proper training regarding regulation and their applicability.
        (2) There is a mean to identify law-abiding operators who received approval to fly in controlled airspace.


No longer a free option to fly UAS
  • As per 14 CFR §89.105 and §89.120, there will only be three ways to comply with this proposed regulation.
    (1) Fly with a UAS equipped with Standard Remote ID
    (2) Fly with a UAS equipped with Limited Remote ID
    (3) Fly at an approved FAA-recognized identification area

    • It would be no longer free to fly a UAS. Internet connection fees, a USS fee, or an FRIA/AMA fee would increase the cost of entry into the hobby. Many would be priced out of the market. Schools, who have tight budgets, will stop drone programs.
      • Getting rid of the requirement for network connection would solve the  Remote ID cost problem if there is no need for a USS subscription or an internet connection .


Remote ID Will Not Stop Terrorists
  • The NPRM states that “Remote identification would also aid in preventing terrorist attacks. Recent reports in the news including the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham’s modifications of commercial UAS, the assassination attempt of Nicola’s Maduro in Venezuela, a foiled plot in the United Kingdom to fly an unmanned aircraft into an airliner, and a bomb-laden unmanned aircraft flown by Huthi forces and detonated over a military parade in Yemen illustrate the ways in which UAS may be used to threaten life, critical infrastructure, and national security. Remote identification of UAS would enable national security agencies and law enforcement to quickly identify potential threats and act to prevent such incidents.“.

    • In all of the above scenarios, a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) would have been established in the US (Presidential TFR, Special event TFR). A bad actor would not follow Remote ID regulation and security agencies would have no information about the aircraft or its operator.
      • A much more efficient technology would be the use of an anti-drone system, such as the one recently implemented at London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaule airports. As well as detecting drones, it also can identify the location of the drone pilots themselves, so law enforcement can find and them. This technology works effectively against terrorists who do not follow the rules of Remote ID.


Retrofitting Not Addressed
  • In various sections of the NPRM, the FAA mentions that most aircraft can currently be retrofitted to Remote ID with little effort by the manufacturer.

    •  If 80% of the current recreational fleet is NOT eligible for retrofit, it will lead to a high percentage of rogue UAS who will not follow the rules, hence making Remote ID a failed experiment. In addition, without the ability to comply with the ANSI serial numbers, 93% of the commercial fleet would be ineligible for retrofit.
      • The FAA should not require ANSI serial number or should exempt current aircraft from this requirement.


USS may be allowed to discriminate based on UAS model
  • In XIV. B. on p. 72484, the FAA states that: “The FAA does not propose to require a Remote ID USS be universally compatible with all UAS. That said, the FAA anticipates that some UAS manufacturers will also be Remote ID USS. In those cases, the Remote ID USS may choose to only connect to UAS made by the same manufacturer. This model is similar to how mobile telephone networks sell devices that can only be used on their networks. The FAA requests comment on whether manufacturers should be permitted to produce UAS that are only compatible with a particular Remote ID USS.”

    • Under this proposal, we could see DJI becoming a USS (which isn’t a problem). DJI could then only allow DJI UAS to connect to its USS service. Similarly, Autel could become a USS and only allow Autel UAS to connect to its USS service. If a business, school, hobbyist owns DJI and Autel UAS, they would have to pay both DJI and Autel to access services mandated by the FAA, doubling the cost of operation.

      Another downside to this approach is that manufacturers could restrict access to certain USS, limiting options for pilots, or requiring pilots to subscribe to a more expensive, less reliable service.

      • Getting rid of the requirement for network connection would remove the need for USS and solve this issue.


“the internet is available”
  • The proposed 14 CFR Part §89.110(a)(1) states “if the internet is available at takeoff, a standard remote identification unmanned aircraft system must:(i) Connect to the internet and transmit the message elements through that internet connection to a Remote ID USS” (p. 72517). It is however unclear what “if the internet is available” means since it is neither defined in 14 CFR §89.1 Definitions nor 14 CFR §1.1 General Definitions.

    • Depending on how “available” is interpreted, there could be situations where a Standard RID UAS is connected to the Internet with a poor connection and therefore is unable to connect to a USS. In this situation, as per Table 4 on page 72466 under “connectivity prior to takeoff”, the UAS would be grounded.

      • Getting rid of the requirement for network connection would remove the need to worry about internet connectivity.


The Cost of Compliance For Manufacturers
  • The FAA estimates that UAS producers would have to produce the documentation required to receive compliance approval for Remote ID would “average 50 pages and would take five hours per page to generate” (XIX. A. 3. iii. on p. 72498). In footnote 157 on p. 72498, the FAA also assumes a “burdened wage of $82.83 per hour” to fill out the paperwork (assuming only one person works on the document).

    • The cost to get Remote ID technology approval would exceed $20,000 (50 x 5 x 82.83), something that smaller manufacturers will either not be able to afford, or will pass down to the customer, and become less competitive with larger manufacturers.

      • Getting rid of the requirement for network connection would reduce the cost of creating a compliant solution since most UAS on the market already meet the requirements to broadcast the information.


Phasing out of approval for FRIA
  • The FAA proposes that applications by CBOs to become an FAA-approved identification area will only be accepted “within 12 calendar months of the effective date of a final rule. At the end of that 12-month period, no new applications for FAA- recognized identification areas would be accepted.

    • Without a current path for home-builders to easily add Remote ID technology and without a path for sub-0.55 lbs UAS to fly anywhere but a FRIA, phasing out FRIAs will force a portion of the flying population out of the hobby. In addition, since most CBO members have aircraft with an average lifespan that exceeds ten years, this would leave them with no place to fly.

      • If home built are excluded from the requirement for Remote ID on the basis that they cannot navigate between more than one point without active control, there is no longer a need for FAA-recognized identification areas.


Effective Dates
  • The FAA is asking whether or not certain waivers should be required to comply with Remote ID earlier than the proposed effective dates.In section XVII on p.72488, the FAA is “seeking comments about whether certain UAS operations currently conducted under waiver, such as operations over people or nighttime operations, should be required to comply with remote identification prior to being authorized under a waiver or regulation.”

    • There currently doesn’t appear to be a clear path to retrofit old aircraft. Requiring early compliance for certain waivers would therefore require businesses to invest in new equipment, something that most small businesses cannot afford to do.

      • Incentives for early adopters could be: priority in receiving approval for certain waivers, approval to fly in certain restricted airspace or “above the grid”. The emphasis on proper flight planning, risk assessment, and management should continue to be a point of focus for all operators, with or without early adoption.


Nationwide Grounding of UAS
  •  In Table 4 on p. 72466, the FAA proposes that if a Standard Remote ID UAS, at takeoff, is connected to the internet but is not transmitting to a Remote ID USS, the UAS be grounded.

    • It would be possible for nefarious actors to perform a coordinated Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack on USS providers, and as a result, ground UAS nationwide.

      • As previously mentioned, removing the requirements for network Remote ID would prevent DDOS attacks.