Remote ID; making sense of the new rule

Brief explanation of Remote ID:

The FAA has released a new rule that would require unmanned aircraft weighing over 250g (.55 lbs or 8.8 oz) to broadcast a “remote identification” or “electronic license plate”.  Remote ID is the ability of a drone in flight to provide identification and location information that can be received by other parties. The information would be broadcast using unlicensed frequencies, i.e. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The information is publicly available to anyone using a device such as a smart phone or tablet running an app.

You can download the full text of the Remote ID rule and the updated sections of nighttime operations and flight over people here:

The new rule creates 3 categories of compliance for unmanned aircraft. This includes popular consumer drones, commercial grade UAS, FPV racing drones, remote controlled airplanes and helicopters.

  1. Standard Remote ID (aircraft with broadcast capabilities built-in)
  2. Retrofit drones with an installed Remote ID Module (may not be operated beyond visual line of sight)
  3. FAA Recognized Identification Area (FRIA)

A FRIA is a location approved by the FAA for operation of UAS that are not equipped with a standard ID or a broadcast module.  This would be an area overseen by a community based organization like a model airplane club for example. Under the new rule, educational institutions may also apply for FRIA status.

In addition to the requirement to broadcast Remote ID information, the new rule creates a means of compliance to operate at night and over people with certain restrictions and requirements.

Update: January 15, 2021

The FAA just published the remote ID rule, the rule pertaining to flights over people and nighttime operations on January 15, 2021. This establishes the timeline for implementation of the various stages of the rule. Based on on the information we have:

March 2, 2021: The FAA website for those taking the recurrent exam and/or nighttime operations should go live.

March 17, 2021: The Remote ID rule goes live. Persons who have successfully passed the recurrent exam on the new website should be able to begin nighttime operations in accordance with the rule. This also establishes the dates for other part of the rule. 18 months from March 17th drone manufacturers must conforming production of standard remote ID aircraft.

The new rule goes into effect 60 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register. This is expected to occur near the end of January 2021.  The new rule lays out a timeline for implementation of milestones to full implementation.

  • 45 days from the date the rule is published, the FAA will open up the online training and testing for the Part 107 recurrent exam (which includes provisions for nighttime operations)
  • 2 months from the date the rule is published it goes into effect
  • 2 months from the date the rule is  published Part 107 pilots who have completed the online training and recurrent exam may begin nighttime operations in accordance with the new rule
  • 18 months from date of publication, unmanned aircraft may not be produced for operation in US Airspace unless they meet the remote ID standard,
  • 18 months from date of publication, CBO’s and educational institutions may begin applying for FRIA status
  • 30 months after rule is in effect, all remote pilots must comply with remote ID by meeting the requirements of 1 or the 3 categories (see below)

FAQ about Remote ID:

Q: The new remote ID rule changes the renewal process for part 107 pilots which eliminates the in-person testing for the recurrent exam.  My certificate is set to expire in March of 2021. Should I wait? 

A: It really depends on when your Part 107 is set to expire. The deciding factor is the timeline. The timing of all of these events is based upon the date the rule is published, which is expected to occur near the end of January 2021. That puts the effective date of the new rule sometime around the end of March 2021.

The online portal should be available 45 days from the date the rule is published. This would allow a 15 day window for part 107 pilots to take the online training and test before the new rule goes into effect 60 days from the date it is published in the Federal register. 

This is only an estimate. It will depend on the date the rule gets published and if the FAA launches the new online test site on schedule.  If your certificate expires before the online recurrent process is available, you would have to discontinue flying until you complete it. If you want to be sure that your certificate doesn’t lapse you would have to take the written exam.  If you are willing to wait it out to see what happens you know what to expect now.  It’s a tough call if your certificate is set to expire around the same time the new process would go into effect.  Additionally, if you want to operate at night under the new rule, you’ll still have to take the online training once it becomes available.

Here is the verbiage from the FAA’s website:

Remote Pilot Knowledge Test

The final rule updates the initial Remote Pilot knowledge test to include an operation at night knowledge area. Additionally, the final rule replaces the requirement to complete an in-person recurrent test every 24 calendar months. The updated requirement is for remote pilots to complete online recurrent training which will include an “operation at night” knowledge area. The online recurrent training will be offered free of charge to remote pilots.This is from the Wiley Law Website:

“Timing/termination of waivers. The new testing and training will be available 45 days after the final rules are published in the Federal Register, and the new rule will be effective and thus enable nighttime operations 60 days after Federal Register publication. Operators currently using Part 107 waivers for nighttime operations will be given a 60-day grace period after that to continue operating under the waiver instead of meeting the new requirements. Accordingly, all pre-existing waivers of Section 107.29 of the FAA’s rules will terminate 120 days after Federal Register publication.”

Q: Will my DJI drone be compliant with remote ID will I need to add a module?

A: Maybe. DJI has been working on a remote ID broadcast solution for some time now and newer DJI drones may already have remote ID capabilities built in. It is possible that some DJI drones like the Mavic 2 or Mavic 2 Air could qualify as standard remote ID compliant depending on a few factors: 1. DJI would need to submit the specs to the FAA and the FAA would have to determine that these UAS meet the requirements under the new rule. 2. The operator would have to link the UAS serial number to the remote ID capability. That number would have to be bound to the aircraft somehow. Once the number is bound to the aircraft it cannot be tampered with or altered. This may involve a firmware update.

In November of 2019 DJI demonstrated the “Direct Drone to Phone Capability” which seems to meet most of the requirements of the remote broadcast requirement. Recent updates to the DJI app enable the operator to enter remote ID information. Given these developments it seems logical to speculate that newer DJI aircraft may comply with the standard remote ID requirement.

Further evidence that some DJI drones will be compliant with Remote ID can be found in a recorded interview an FAA official, Mike O’Shea, Program Manager at the Federal Aviation Administration UAS Integration Office. The DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety alliance published a video on YouTube January 2021. At 14:31 in the video O’Shea suggests that DJI will be able to enable Standard remote ID capabilities through a firmware update.

Q: Who sells the remote ID module? Does it exist yet?

A: It is not commercially available yet (as of January 2021). The FAA just released the standards and requirements on December 28, 2020.  It will take manufacturers time to develop, manufacture and gain FAA approval before they can sell them.  Drone pilots have 30 months from the date the rule goes into effect to comply.

Q; Are there any local airfields that qualify as FRIA?

A: Too soon to know. It is likely that existing AMA clubs will apply for FRIA status. Under the new rule educational institutions may also apply and qualify.

Q: Are DIY drones allowed to fly outside FRIAs (with a transponder) and do they need to be certified?

A: Yes, if they are over 250g you will need to apply a serial number using a standardized system.  The FAA includes a website to explain the standard and how to obtain a serial number that meets the standard, then you will have to register the drone with that serial number and apply the transponder.

Q: Does the Remote ID Module replace the FAA registration number or do we still need the number visible on the drone?

A: You still need to register any drone weighing over 250g and display the registration number of the outside of the drone.  The Remote ID module requirement is tied to registration for drone that are not equipped with Standard ID capabilities. If the drone needs to be registered it must have the module. The module will have its own unique identifier which is in tern tied to our drones serial number.

About Bill Bongle

Bill Bongle is a 29-year police veteran and technology consultant, rising to the rank of Captain before retiring from the Green Bay Police Department in 2015. In 2015 Bill started Titletown Drones LLC, a company which provides drone related training and equipment. He specializes in assisting public safety agencies establish their drone programs. Bill has developed several drone related training courses including part 107 test prep and flight training. Bill has trained hundreds of commercial drone pilots, police officers, firefighters and government officials across the nation.