Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received recommendations regarding remote identification of drones in a report from the unmanned aircraft  Identification and Tracking (UAS ID) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). One of the topics at issue: whether we need remote identification (ID) of all drones in the national airspace. Beyond the FAA, the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DoJ) and commercial drone advocates insist that all drones have remote ID. Why? Well, while there are lot of good intentioned drone operators out there, there are also a lot of bad actors with access to drone technology as well. And, it does seem rather impossible to have ‘highways in the sky’ without some system of identification. These concerns were exactly what led the FAA to establish UAS ID ARC.

In the end, despite a close vote (34 agreed with the report, 28 did not), the FAA is only considering two performance based applicability recommendations, both of which would exempt hobbyists from remote ID:

Option 1: All UAS would be required to comply with remote ID and tracking requirements except under the following circumstances:

  1. “The unmanned aircraft is operated within visual line of sight of the remote pilot and is not designed to have the capability of flying beyond 400 feet of the remote pilot.”
  2. “The unmanned aircraft is operated in compliance with 14 CFR Part 101, unless the unmanned aircraft: (a) is equipped with advanced flight systems technologies that enable the aircraft to navigate from one point to another without continuous input and direction from the remote pilot,” and “is equipped with a real-time downlinked remote sensor that provides the remote pilot the capability of navigating the aircraft beyond visual line of sight of the remote pilot.”

Option 2: “UAS with either of the following characteristics must comply with remote ID and tracking requirements: (1) ability of the aircraft to navigate between more than one point without direct and active control of the pilot; (2) range from control station greater than 400 feet and real-time remotely viewable sensor.”

Another recommendation was that the FAA “apply the remote ID and tracking requirements to the remote pilot, not to the manufacturer of the UAS.”

Of course, these recommendations do not mean that the FAA has decided one way or another in regard to remote ID for drones. This is simply the start to a complicated conversation between the FAA, the public and the entire drone industry. We will watch the FAA as it continues to evolve the law in this area.