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  • Charl Jooste

FAA Announces Partners for Drone Remote ID Development – Is this good news?

Image: FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), part of the U.S. Department of Transport, issued a press release on 5 May with details of the companies that will be working with them to develop the framework as well as supplier requirements for drone Remote Identification.

Remote ID is used to provide the identity and location details of drones or UAVs. This allows for safer and more effective control of the national airspace.

The companies that will be working with the FAA on this are:

  • Airbus

  • AirMap

  • Amazon

  • Intel

  • One Sky

  • Skyward

  • T-Mobile

  • Wing

The selection was based on a request for information process that started in December 2018.

Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Transportation Secretary, had the following to say: “The FAA will be able to advance the safe integration of drones into our nation’s airspace from these technology companies’ knowledge and expertise on remote identification.”

The aim of this collaboration is to aid the FAA in creating the guidelines and technology needed for Remote ID allowing safety and security authorities to monitor drone flights. It will work together with the Remote ID Rule which is still in the proposal stage after which the FAA will take applications from those wanting to supply Remote IDs.

Drone growth, both private and commercial, has been exponential in recent years. There are currently in excess of 160 000 registered remote pilots and more than 1.5 million drones. Control, identification, and monitoring are necessary. The Remote ID system will integrate with the UAS Traffic Management (UTM) and their Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).

While this move by the FAA appears positive at first, one needs to take a closer look.

The proposal is highly invasive, cumbersome, and more expensive than equally effective alternatives. Notably, the one name that is missing from the list of companies working to develop the Remote ID system is market leader DJI. There is little doubt that DJI is one of the biggest names in the drone market, particularly commercial drones. They have been trailblazers with many technologies that have advanced the industry as a whole and could well have offered valuable input on these decisions. Why exclude them?

DJI has some serious concerns that will affect users of drones as well as the services they offer. These include leisure users, commercial applications as well as humanitarian, security, and life-saving drone applications. While the company supports the government move for a Remote ID system, they believe the proposed regulations will hamper use and development for the drone market. They are confident that a quality system can be developed that is free, safe, much easier to use, and less intrusive.

They feel so strongly about this they have logged a detailed formal comment to the FAA. They have requested that drone pilots have options for Remote ID. This, they rightly say, will be easier, lead to lower costs and increase compliance.

In their submission, DJI stated: “A Remote ID requirement that is costly, burdensome, complex, or subject to multiple points of failure, will be a requirement that fails. We offer these comments, many of which are highly critical of aspects of the FAA’s proposal, in the sincere interest of promoting a good final rule for the FAA, the U.S. Government, and the UAS industry.”

DJI's cost estimates for the proposed Remote ID technology, detailed by NERA Economic Consulting Director, Dr. Christian Dippon, are significantly higher, roughly four times FAA estimates. This cost, combined with the complexity of the process and the invasive nature of the proposal will have a detrimental impact on the drone industry that has so much to offer to all people in all sectors of the economy.

Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs explains: “We have known for years that Remote ID will be required by governments worldwide and will provide members of the public with confidence in productive drone uses, but the FAA’s deeply flawed proposal poses a real threat to how American businesses, governments, educators, photographers and enthusiasts can use drones. We hope our detailed economic analysis and comments, as well as tens of thousands of comments from other concerned parties, will encourage the FAA to develop a more risk-based, balanced and efficient Remote ID rule, so our customers and the entire industry are not hurt by the final outcome.”

At this point, it is difficult to understand the logic behind the exclusion of DJI and the direction the FAA has chosen. Clearly, the larger companies with a vested interest such as Amazon, have more money behind them and more clout in government circles. Fortunately, these measures are unlikely to be implemented in the very near future so there is hope that DJI and other concerned parties can get their important message across.

While regulation and control are necessary and supported by all parties, there are affordable, simple, and proven ways to do this safely. This will be of benefit to all involved and help growth and development in this essential industry.


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