Remote ID; My Response


On December 26, 2019 the FAA published a proposed rule referred to as Remote ID. Industry professionals had convened and made their recommendations to the FAA prior to publishing the proposed rule. Unfortunately, the FAA chose to disregard many of the recommendations provided by the committee. The public has an opportunity to comment on the new rule. The FAA is supposed to consider public comments when crafting the new rule. If you wish view the prosed rule in its entirety click here: Remote ID NPRM

Here is my response

Thank you for the opportunity to publicly comment on the Remote ID NPRM.  

I own and operate a small business which provides training to recreational, commercial and public safety sUAS operators. I have been building and flying remote aircraft for over 20 years.  I write these comments from the perspective of a hobbyist, commercial drone operator (part 107 certified), a career law enforcement officer and public safety trainer. My mission is to teach people how to fly sUAS A.K.A. “drones” safely and legally. I have trained hundreds of drone pilots in the last 5 years.

I support the spirit of the FAA’s efforts to establish an Unmanned Traffic Management System and Remote ID. I support the thousands of drone pilots who are engaged in lawful and legitimate activities. I support accountability and believe that law enforcement officers need additional tools to detect and deter unauthorized drone operations. I must however address certain parts of the Remote ID NPRM which I believe are overreaching, unnecessary and potentially harmful.

The Remote ID NPRM has major implications and will regulate the conduct of millions of Americans.  As a 30-year police veteran I can attest that the general public obeys laws when they are perceived to be legitimate, reasonable, fair and have at least a remote possibility of being enforced.  For example, if a community passed law changing the speed limit to 5 mph downtown a few things would happen. Most people will avoid driving downtown, its simply not feasible to drive that slow. Some people will break the speed limit, viewing the law as illegitimate and unreasonable. Some police officers will avoid enforcing the 5-mph speed limit for the same reason.  A few people might actually obey the new law but the new law brings many unintended consequences. The business district suffers, and the lawmakers get an earful. 

The public comments about this proposed rule make it clear that there are some serious concerns. Many, including myself, view parts of the proposed Remote ID NPRM as unreasonable, unfair and onerous. If the public’s view of the new rule is that it is unjust, voluntary compliance will be low. The FAA has neither the resources nor the capacity to enforce these regulations and therefore must rely upon voluntary compliance. Therefore, for Remote ID to feasible, the FAA should consider revisions which balance public safety and the freedoms it seeks to limit.

  1. The proposed rule limits amateur built recreational aircraft to be flown only at FAA Recognized Identification Areas

People interested in aviation often get their start building and flying remote aircraft. Some of these models are built from kits while others are custom built from materials like foamboard, wood and plastic.  These amateur built aircraft are an excellent way for youth to explore the joys of aviation. Under the remote ID NPRM, model airplanes would fall into the “No Remote ID” category and would therefore be relegated to FAA Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA).   

Under current rules, someone who lives in a rural area could fly one of these models in their backyard, posing negligible risk to the National Airspace.  Under the new rules, the hobbyist must travel to a FRIA, pay any required membership fees, annual dues and travel costs associated with operating at a FRIA. This assumes there is a FRIA available.

I don’t think I should have to drive a long distance to go to an AMA flying field to teach my grandson to fly a model airplane. I should be able to go to the local park or a farm field as long as I’m following the other rules. I do not wish to join the AMA and pay for an expensive membership fee.  Organizations like the AMA have enlarged their membership by getting provisions like this enacted into law. It’s unfair to be forced to join a private organization.  

Mini Racing Drones Add a New Wrinkle to Remote ID

There is a relatively new aspect of the hobby, mini drone racing. These small multirotor aircraft are constructed of carbon fiber custom components and electronics. They usually weigh less than a pound. Hobbyists design, build, program and tweak these small drones. It’s an excellent educational opportunity for young and old alike. Racing drones are typically flown at altitudes under 50 feet in open areas such as grassy fields and parks.  Racing drones are not usually flown at fixed sites such as a model airplane club field. In fact, many RC airplane modelers consider racing drones and fixed-wing model aircraft incompatible, therefore the racing drone community is often relegated to other places such as parks or private property. In other words, many FRIA sites disallow mini racing drones from operating at their site.

According the Remote ID NPRM, racing drones would fall into the “No Remote ID” category and would therefore be relegated to the FRIA sites.  Under current rules someone who lives in a rural area could fly one of these models in their backyard.  Under the proposed rule, hobbyists must travel to a FRIA, pay any required membership fees, annual dues and travel costs associated with operating at a FRIA.

Mini racing drones pose negligible threat to the national airspace due to their small size, low weight, short range and limited flight times. Therefore, the NPRM imposes a hardship on the mini drone racing community without a corresponding gain in improving safety.

The FRIA requirement is not feasible for the following reasons

  • Amateur built aircraft can be flown in uncongested areas without posing a threat to the national airspace
  • The requirement poses undue hardship as many hobbyists do not have access to FRIAs 
  • Model airplane clubs (future FRIA sites) often disallow legitimate activities such as mini drone racing
  • Requiring amateur built aircraft to fly at FRIAs will create congestion and increase the likelihood of accidents
  • Accessing a FRIA will result in additional costs such as membership fees and club dues
  • Inaccessibility to FRIAs is likely to increase noncompliance with the rule
  • The rule offers no provision for events like model airplane shows or drone racing events that take place outside of a FRIA

Recommendation:

Eliminate this requirement for amateur built aircraft. Existing rules provide sufficient safeguards. 

2. Standard Remote ID, Data Security and Privacy

  • The standard remote identification UAS broadcasts the remote identification message elements directly from the unmanned aircraft from takeoff to landing.
  • When the internet is available at takeoff, the standard remote identification UAS connects to the internet and transmits the required message elements through that internet connection to a Remote ID USS.

Technology already exists to “live broadcast” remote ID information directly from the aircraft. 

This proposed rule imposes an additional requirement on the operator to subscribe to a paid service and share data via an Internet connection (when available).  An Internet connection would rely on the cellular data network. There are numerous areas where these data connections are either poor or non-existent.  

Recommendation:

The live Internet connection should only be required in controlled airspace. Since there is usually cellular data available in areas near class B, C, D airports this could actually work. Class G airspace could be satisfied with a broadcast only solution and should be exempt from the live Internet connection requirement.

3. Implications for Public Safety

Public safety missions often include monitoring armed suspects and assisting tactical teams in establishing a perimeter.  Establishing an Internet connection is an extra step that impairs a public safety agency’s ability to utilize SUAS for life saving missions.  

Since Standard remote ID shares data through an Internet connection, steps must be taken to protect sensitive information which would compromise the safety of police officers. For example, if a drone were used to monitor a building where an armed suspected is hiding, the public should not be able monitor the location of the drone or the operator. Imagine the risk to public safety if an armed suspect could monitor police activities! This would endanger the safety of the officers. 

Many government agencies have taken steps to protect their data with respect to drone flights.  Recently the Department of Interior grounded a fleet of Chinese made drones overs concerns of data security. The Department of Homeland Security has issued security bulletins regarding data security from drones. This proposed rule has data being broadcast to third party service providers.  The very rule that purports to assist law enforcement in detecting rouge operators also exposes public safety agencies to potential security breaches.

Recommendation: 

Control how data is collected and accessed to ensure that public safety missions are not compromised. Law enforcement engaged in tactical operations should be exempt from the live broadcast requirement.

4. Privacy

Commercial and recreational drone pilots also have legitimate privacy concerns. Misinformation and embellished media stories about drones have enraged the anti-drone crowd. This has resulted in unlawful and dangerous confrontations of drone pilots. There are dozens of documented cases of drones being shot down.  

It seems counterintuitive to create a system where the general public can pinpoint the location of the drone pilot and obtain detailed information. Some drone operators are juveniles. It seems unsafe to expose kids to this potential threat.

Recommendation: 

Only law enforcement and FAA officials should have access to this type of information.  The Remote ID details should be accessed only for legitimate purposes.  The third-party service providers who are collecting this information should be required to protect the integrity of this data. It should only be used to assist regulatory agencies with compliance. Third party service providers should not sell or distribute user data without consent. 

5. Limited Remote ID Capabilities

Under this proposed rule an aircraft operating with Limited Remote ID would be restricted to flights no more than 400 feet from the control station. 400 feet is unreasonably restrictive and would severely limit the usefulness a remote aircraft. I can’t imagine a manufacturer would even bother producing an aircraft like this. 

Recommendation: Either increase the distance to at least 1,500 feet or eliminate this category all together.  There is no value in flying a remote aircraft that is limited to 400 feet.

6. Registration

The prosed rule would change the registration requirements for recreational aircraft single user registration to each aircraft registered by serial number.  

I’ve attended events like FliteFest where thousands of people come to experience the fun of building and flying remote aircraft.  These aircraft are amateur built recreational aircraft. In most cases these are kits made of foam board and hot glue. These aircraft do not have serial numbers. They are constructed of flexible, disposable materials which are unlikely to cause any damage or harm and pose negligible risk to the national airspace. 

Recommendation:

An exemption should be made for amateur built recreational aircraft to allow for single user registration as it currently applies.  Under this exemption the drone pilot registers one time and the same number is applied to all amateur built recreational aircraft.

Conclusion:

I appreciate the effort to move the industry forward. I know remote ID is one part of a bigger process to allow for other opportunities.  This rule is just too overreaching. It regulates activities which pose negligible risk without a corresponding gain. The proposed rule is punitive to the recreational flyer and the commercial drone pilot. The rule introduces new risks, but these risks can be addressed by modifying the rule. Please take these comments into consideration when crafting the new rule.

Thank you,

Bill Bongle, sUAS Flight Instructor

Titletown Drones LLC


About Bill Bongle

Bill Bongle is a retired police captain with over 30 years experience in public safety. He owns and operates the only drone repair center in the State of Wisconsin and is the founder of the Green Bay Area Drone User Group.