FAA Proposes Rule To Require Remote Identification Of Drones


The FAA issued a proposal on Thursday for a rule that would require unmanned aircraft systems (UAS/drones) to be identifiable remotely. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) suggests tying remote identification requirements to UAS registration and would allow drone identification and location information to be received by “people on the ground and other airspace users.” According to the FAA, the proposed rule would cover all drones—both recreational and commercial—operating in U.S. airspace “with very few exceptions.”

“The remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems in the airspace of the United States would address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns regarding the further integration of these aircraft into the airspace of the United States while also enabling greater operational capabilities,” the agency said in the “unpublished” version of the NPRM (PDF). “This is an important building block in the unmanned traffic management ecosystem.”

While the FAA says the UAS remote identification equipment would provide information “similar to how ADS-B and transponders provide identifying information for manned aircraft,” the proposed rule would prohibit ADS-B Out and transponder use by drones due to concerns over “the lack of infrastructure for these technologies at lower altitudes and the potential saturation of [the] available radio frequency spectrum.” The rule would also require UAS owners who currently use a single registration number for multiple drones to register each one individually. The NPRM is scheduled to be officially published in the Federal Register on Dec. 31, after which it will be open for public comment for 60 days.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. “The proposed rule would prohibit ADS-B Out and transponder use by drones due to concerns over ‘the lack of infrastructure for these technologies at lower altitudes and the potential saturation of [the] available radio frequency spectrum.’ ”

    • Which is exactly what I’ve been saying, for the past three years.

      LTE, here we come. Which is what we SHOULD have done instead of ADS-B. Oy.

      I’m sure that some favored contractor will get a fat one, for the “integration” of LTE with ADS-B – ground- AND satellite-based, of course. Antenna diversity, here we come. That’s going to go over like a fart in an airlock, to everyone who just shelled out several kilobucks for a down-look-only ADS-B solution. Oy, again.

      You couldn’t make up this stuff.

  2. I was going to reply to Yars’ comments when I got the bright idea to click on the link to the “unplublished NPRM.” Mistake! What I found caused my head to explode … literally. Expecting to find a short Executive Summary, it’s 30 pages long. The whole document is 319 pages long. It’s almost as long as the FAR Part 23 ARC Rewrite document. WHO thinks all this stuff up? Well, I’m relieved to find that there’s a section for Tribal Consultation and Coordination (sic).

    The bottom line is that BOTH the UAS AND the operator location in 3-D space are going to have to be transmitted to “a new network of Remote ID UAS Service Suppliers (Remote ID USS) that would collect the identification and location in real-time from in-flight UAS.” And they envision a pay for play tracking subscription service because the FAA doesn’t want to run it. The document doesn’t really say how that’s all going to be done … magic, I guess? One thing is for sure — someone is going to get rich over this new requirement. I bet Flight Aware is salivating tonight? And I see they’re building the possibility for anonymity into the design. Also, they make a point of saying that ADS-B technology cannot be used … as mentioned above. The period for implementation is three years after the Rule goes into effect. So this likely means that existing UAS are going to become obsolete. A new Part 89 of the FAR’s will be written and others changed as a result.

    How they’ll cross pollinate the UAS position info with TIS-B uplink system is unknown at this point and not described in the proposed NPRM. If the proliferation of UAS is as large as envisioned, anyone with ADS-B in better have a 32″ TV set in their cockpit because the small GPS readouts aren’t gonna work.

    I wanna see Paul B make a video about THIS proposed monstrosity. I have the title for him: “And you thought implementing ADS-B was hard.” I advise all others to wait for it because if you try to read this thing … YOUR heads will explode, too.

  3. So model airplanes, which have killed fewer people in the past 80 years than guns kill every day, and which have a better safety record than golf or softball, now have to be registered with the Feds and carry remote ID devices.

    What amazing stupidity.

  4. I’ve read through this NPRM and there are some things in it to consider,concerning full scale pilots and modelers.For the certified full scale pilots,the gist of this proposal would not benefit safety of operations.Most UAS craft operate well below the altitudes of general and commercial traffic.For modelers,putting miniature tracking devices would not enhance safety when flying line of sight and at such relatively low altitudes.

    There are other troubling articles of this proposal that are ill conceived.Anything manufactured before final ruling might be grandfathered in if the model is flown at an FAA recognized AMA flying site(also referred to as an FAA recognized ID area). It is stated that this is one way modelers could be monitored(indirectly) to satisfy the requirement of being identified as an exception to remotely tagging individual craft .If one wants to fly models weighing more than .55 lbs at a park,they would have to be remotely tagged and have some means of connecting to the internet or some other contrivance.As for flying sites,there is a limited time to register the field after the rule goes into effect.If not registered in the allotted time, the site may not be registered at all in the future.There is a clause stating that such exceptions may be phased out through attrition.In short,the vision is to have all UAS craft remotely tagged.

    Other things that can impact the hobbyist is that registration may require the user to individually register each model aircraft.There is detailed criteria requiring serial numbers,manufacture,ect.As for part 107 operators,the proposal would add more complexity to flying their craft as well.It remains to be seen how this new rule would pan out in the days to come.

    In my opinion,I don’t think that a policy like this would discourage criminal activity or ignorant users.It seems that it’s more to claim airspace at lower altitudes for large company interests or local authority use.It disappoints me as an aviator of both full scale and model aircraft activity.More regulation is not in the interests of everyday users as it only stifles innovation,destroys smaller industries and burdens most economically.

    I hope that cooler heads prevail and a healthy discussion with our congressmen will prevent bad policy making.

    • BINGO, Adam. I had a discussion with my original flight instructor of 50 years ago this AM; he’s a drone guy, too. HE says he thinks this will ONLY benefit large scale users and drive Mr. LittleGuy out of the sport. I agree. And — as you said — those with nefarious intentions will be sure to adhere to all the tenets contained in the NPRM.

      They’re using a sledge hammer to kill a fly … and WE — the taxpayers — are allowing those people free reign.

  5. The faa email I received blurbed that remote ID technologies would cover “…drones weighing less than 55 pounds other than model aircraft…” which made me think that model R/C aircraft would not be affected. (I saw the 319 page document. I didn’t read it).
    Also I have not seen anything related to what this new equipment consists of, it’s cost, etc. Any extra weight carried by a small electric drone is going to reduce performance and flight time.
    The equipment also probably won’t be inexpensive, but maybe the FAA will offer a rebate like they did for ADS-b!

  6. From the perspective of the GA pilot operating at typical UAV altitudes, which most typically would mean descent, landing/takeoff & climb out ops, the primary benefit from this would be real-time display of the UAV’s location(s).
    Unfortunately, I see problems with this aspect of the scheme, which depends on being able to receive ADS-B ground station transmission of UAV data. First of all, in huge areas of the country you still have no ADS-B ground station signal below about 2000 AGL. Then there is the matter of data latency as the information wends its way through transmission, processing, hand off to a different system, and finally transmission for display in the cockpit.
    Still, it’s a huge step toward dealing with the various problems presented by UAVs, traffic control being only one.

  7. From the perspective of a HELICOPTER pilot operating at typical UAV altitudes, that means NEARLY ALL ops. We are used to watching for unmarked towers and birds. With the rapid advances in drone delivery systems (we just had a demonstration of a drugstore delivery to a condo complex in my city) I expect to have to worry more about drones than birds before too long.

    When this issue of UAVs in the NAS first arose, I went on record that they should not be allowed until their operators had the same “skin in the game” as a pilot. For an autonomous UAV, it must be at least as smart as a bird of the same mass, with the same sense of self-preservation. For an operator-controlled UAV, a near-miss should deliver an electrical shock equivalent to the trauma the pilot experienced. For an actual collision, the control unit should explode.

    Fair is fair.

  8. Judging by the number of YouTube videos showing flagrant disregard for the FAR’s these regs seem to be overdue.
    I would think this program would about pay for itself, they will be issuing fines in the same manner as stoplight cameras, except the letter with the fine in it will start at $3000, not $75.

  9. In theory, I don’t have a problem with this rule if it would actually prevent an accident or “attack” from a UAV. Unfortunately, it won’t. As with most government regulations, it will mostly punish honest drone operators with more paperwork and expensive equipment, but those intent on either breaking or ignoring the rules will still be able to execute whatever plot they have in mind. If you think companies or the government have employees smart enough to make foolproof code that no one can hack into, I’ve got a bridge in London to sell you. It is easy enough to build your own UAV from parts off the Internet, which would not contain any codes or position transmitters to begin with. Plus, why do they need 300+ pages to outline the rules? The FAA has addressed complex ADs with a lot less paper. This sounds like they are getting pressure from Homeland Security or TSA to fix a problem they envision. Both DHS and TSA have had a bug up their noses about drones ever since they first appeared. The incident at Gatwick airport near London only heightens their paranoia. But, someone please tell me that such a rule would have prevented that kind of incident. Didn’t think so….

  10. FLASH: I just found out that the USAF at Eglin AFB, FL, “shot down a subscale drone using an AGR-20A Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rocket on Dec. 19. The test provided a proof of concept for using rockets queued from an F-16 targeting pod as viable munitions to perform cruise missile defense.”

    “Originally developed as a low cost, low collateral damage air-to-ground weapon for use in Afghanistan and Iraq, adapting the AGR-20A for counter-air use is momentous. The AGR-20A is a fraction of the cost of an AIM-120 missile commonly used for cruise missile defense. Additionally, the AGR-20A can be loaded faster than an AIM-120 and an aircraft can carry two-to-three times the number weapons.”

    “This proof of concept can have implications for homeland defense missions … ”

    So anyone not equipping their UAS/drones after this rule goes into effect had better plan to potentially meet an F-16 if they’re doing anything nefarious. The AGR-20A appears to me to be a low cost rocket which can somehow be steered by the F-16’s targeting pod and has a low probability of collateral damage. This is HUGE and answers the question of ‘what do we do with people who don’t comply with the new reg?’ This answers Chip D’s conundrum above, too.

  11. Here’s my thoughts on this issue from a long time RC modeler. This rule as written, would mean the end of a hobby that I and thousands of others have enjoyed for more than 80 years. Radio Controlled model aircraft. helicopters, Airplanes, etc. The rule assumes that all operators of what this rule terms amateur Built UAS, won’t continue to build more aircraft is not realistic. Compare it to man carrying amateur built or “homebuilt aircraft”. folks are continually building new full size aircraft. This rule includes a blanket statement, that these non RID systems will be phased out by attrition and FRIA,s will be phased out. This is unrealistic. Bear in mind, Model aircraft are not autonomous drones capable of long distance flight. They are line of sight. Only able to be flown within at most a 1/2 mile radius from the pilot. To restrict flight to 400 feet from the operator Is also not possible. this statement implies one of two things. Either very little research was put into understanding Model Aircraft by this rule making panel, or it was the intent to make sure a beneficial STEM activity which is one of the most significant attractors of young people into aviation is forced out of existence. The FRIA’S FAA Recognized identification areas do not adequately address the operation of model aircraft or “amateur built systems” partly because they are designed to phase out over time. also to limit operation of my model aircraft to an FAA approved tiny area doesn’t line up with operations of other aircraft. I can fly a part 103 manned ultralight anywhere in the US with no license or certification of any kind. no registration required and no FAA license as long as I don’t fly into controlled airspace. Specifically A,B,C or D, airspace. But I can fly that ultralight aircraft anywhere in Class E and G airspace and underneath the tiers of class B and C which is outside of controlled airspace. I can even fly into the ”mode C” veil with those aircraft as long as I don’t enter the Class B space. That also goes for a full size airplane certified originally with no electrical system or an amateur built airplane certified with no electrical system. So If I can fly a non ADS-B full size aircraft anywhere, WHY am I not allowed to fly my 25 lb. line of sight only scale model in those same areas? For over 80 years there has never been a fatality between a model aircraft and a full size aircraft. There has been zero interference by LOS model aircraft, operated under the safety code of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, with ANY full scale airliners and medevac helicopters etc.
    Also as written, this rule would force the end of model aircraft meets such as Top Gun at Lakeland Linder regional airport, Old Rhinebeck RC Jamboree at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in NY and Golden Age Air Museum RC meet at Golden Age Air Museum in Bethel PA to name a few, because by this rule Model aircraft will be restricted to FRIA’s which by design will be phased out, AND to establish a FRIA at every small private airport across the country by this NPRM wouldnt be realistic, nor be allowed.
    On another very important subject, to limit model aircraft operation in this way will destroy the very robust industry of RC. it will stop the sales of equipment, and put many people out of jobs, because the market for engines, motors, batteries, for kits, for supporting hardware and Radio Control outfits will be regulated out of existence. Modelers don’t buy cheap off the shelf toys to play with. We Build model aircraft we buy wood, glue, components and assemble them into replicas of full scale aircraft. On the registration requirement, the NPRM assertion that there are 1.3 “drones per person is deeply flawed. Most modellers are prolific builders. I personally own 25 RC AIRPLANES To have to register each one individually is a large added regulatory and monetary burden. That’s 5.00 more per airplane added to the cost of building and maintaining that airplane. And the burden of maintaining that registration! To register a model airplane at all is not consistent with the FAA’s own precedent in FAR part 103 ultralight aircraft. Also, I And I’m not alone have model airplanes over 25 years old still flying. So to assume that the useful life will be phased out over time between building new kits and maintaining old ones is not realistic. This country is built on the rights of the individual. To restrict the individual hobbyist operating safely for 80 years for the DESIRES of a large company, not the needs mind you, The large firms in the should have to work around us individuals. theres more of us.
    As far as national security? A LOS only model aircraft with no provision to go outside the boundaries of the radio waves and sight of the pilot is not an issue outside of critical areas, it’s a non issue.
    This NPRM needs to be completely rewritten to EXEMPT the category of Model aircraft as defined by the Academy of Model Aeronautics from RID and registration requirements per FAR 103 rules for ultralight aircraft.

  12. Here’s why all NAS users should tell the FAA their NPRM on Remote ID is seriously flawed:

    Where did the FAA that encouraged aviation education go?
    Oh, they were replaced by 737 MAX safety team.
    Where did the FAA that recognized the need for student pilots go?
    Oh, they were replaced by the Amazon Support Team.
    Where happened to the FAA that understood the need for technological research?
    Oh… Hello, FedEx Drone Delivery Service
    Where did the FAA that wanted General Aviation to succeed?
    Oh, enter Chinese-owned DJI.
    What happened to LSA?
    What happened to VLJ? DHL Delivery instead?
    “Highway In The Sky.”

    The FAA has become the Uwe Boll of their own mission statement. GA is dying. Aviation Education is dying. Old pilots are dying and there are no replacements for them. Our aviation industry is dying. Why? Because the FAA is making aviation – even model aviation – less appetizing to the very people we need. The United States of America needs pilots. It needs aviation students. It needs General Aviation. The military can no longer supply the number of pilots that the aviation industry needs. Yet, here, in this document, I see the FAA doing its best to completely gut the source of people who contribute the most to the actual mission of the FAA:
    – the kid who is interested in learning how to fly so he can become a pilot, but is dissuaded to learn due to the regulations.
    – the student who has a great idea to revolutionize how something works, but isn’t allowed to experiment due to regulations.
    – the teacher who would like to teach, but isn’t allowed to teach due to the burden of regulations.
    – the farmer who wants to improve his crop yields, but can’t due to excessive regulations that prohibit him from doing so.
    – the first responder at a disaster scene who isn’t allowed to search for the injured, due to excessive regulations.
    – the researcher who wants to improve manned aviation safety, but can’t – because he’s too old to fly manned and the unmanned regulations don’t permit what he is trying to do.

    Follow the money. What was bought so this bill could be paid for, and what damage will the resultant debt do to the aviation industry?