The FAA drone remote identification rules have many people upset because of how burdensome they are, the secret backroom meetings the FAA did with big companies who wanted to profit off of regulating drone flyers, and how it can expose flyers to harassments or their drones being shot down. Some of what I will talk about below will shock you and has not been talked about.
We’ll talk about the different types of remote identification and where things are going from here.
Table of Contents of Article
- 1 Summary of the Remote Identification Regulations
- 2 Major Changes from Proposed Rule to Final Rule
- 3 Remote Identification Risk Assessments
- 4 Remote Identification Timeline of Events
- 5 How the Remote Identification Rules Affect Different Groups:
- 6 The Different Types of Remote Identification
- 7 FAA Accepted Means of Compliance for Remote ID
- 8 Contentious Background of How Remote ID Was Developed
- 9 Lawsuits Challenging Remote Identification
Summary of the Remote Identification Regulations
The Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Final Rule is the next incremental step towards further integration of Unmanned Aircraft (UA) in the National Airspace System. In its most basic form, remote identification can be described as a “digital license plate” for UA. Remote ID is necessary to address aviation safety and security issues regarding UA operations in the National Airspace System, and is an essential building block toward safely allowing more complex UA operations.
The final rule establishes a new Part 89 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The final rule has been sent to the Office of the Federal Register and will become effective 60 days after the publication date in the Federal Register. Publication is expected in January 2021. Compliance timeframes and major provisions are summarized below.
Under the final rule, all UA required to register must remotely identify, and operators have three options (described below) to satisfy this requirement. For UA weighing 0.55 lbs or less, remote identification is only required if the UA is operated under rules that require registration, such as part 107. Operational rules take effect 30 months after the effective date of the rule.
- Standard Remote ID Unmanned Aircraft:
- Broadcasts remote ID messages directly from the UA via radio frequency broadcast (likely Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology), and broadcast will be compatible with existing personal wireless devices.
- Standard Remote ID message includes: UA ID (serial number of UA or session ID); latitude/longitude, altitude, and velocity of UA; latitude/longitude and altitude of Control Station; emergency status; and time mark.
- Remote ID message will be available to most personal wireless devices within range of the broadcast; however, correlating the serial number or session ID with the registration database will be limited to the FAA and can be made available to authorized law enforcement and national security personnel upon request.
- Range of the remote ID broadcast may vary, as each UA must be designed to maximize the range at which the broadcast can be received.
- UA w/ Remote ID Broadcast Module:
- Broadcast Module may be a separate device that is attached to an unmanned aircraft, or a feature built into the aircraft.
- Enables retrofit for existing UA, and Broadcast Module serial number must be entered into the registration record for the unmanned aircraft.
- Broadcast Module Remote ID message includes: serial number of the module; latitude/longitude, altitude, and velocity of UA; latitude/longitude and altitude of the take off location, and time mark.
- UA remotely identifying with a Broadcast Module must be operated within visual line of sight at all times.
- Broadcast Module to broadcast via radio frequency (likely Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology).
- Compatibility with personal wireless devices and range of the Remote ID Broadcast Module message similar to Standard Remote ID UA (see above).
- FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA):
- Geographic areas recognized by the FAA where unmanned aircraft not equipped with Remote ID are allowed to fly.
- Organizations eligible to apply for establishment of a FRIA include: community-based organizations recognized by the Administrator, primary and secondary educational institutions, trade schools, colleges, and universities.
- Must operate within visual line of sight and only within the boundaries of a FRIA.
- The FAA will begin accepting applications for FRIAs 18 months after the effective date of the rule, and applications may be submitted at any time after that.
- FRIA authorizations will be valid for 48 months, may be renewed, and may be terminated by the FAA for safety or security reasons.
Design and Production Rules for Manufacturers
- Most unmanned aircraft must be produced as Standard Remote ID Unmanned Aircraft and meet the requirements of this rule beginning 18 months after the effective date of the rule.
- Remote ID Broadcast modules must be produced to meet the requirements of the rule before they can be used.
- The final rule establishes minimum performance requirements describing the desired outcomes, goals, and results for remote identification without establishing a specific means or process.
- A person designing or producing a standard UA or broadcast module must show that the UA or broadcast module met the performance requirements of the rule by following an FAA-accepted means of compliance.
- Under the rule, anyone can create a means of compliance. However, the FAA must accept that means of compliance before it can be used for the design or production of any standard remote identification UA or remote identification broadcast module.
- FAA encourages consensus standards bodies to develop means of compliance and submit them to the FAA for acceptance.
- Highlights of Standard Remote ID UA Performance Requirements:
- UA must self-test so UA cannot takeoff if Remote ID is not functioning
- Remote ID cannot be disabled by the operator
- Remote ID Broadcast must be sent over unlicensed Radio Frequency spectrum (receivable by personal wireless devices, ex: Wi-Fi or Bluetooth)
- Standard Remote ID UA and Remote ID Broadcast Modules must be designed to maximize the range at which the broadcast can be received.
Other Provisions in the Remote ID Final Rule
- Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out and Air Traffic Control (ATC) Transponder Prohibition for UAS
- The final rule amends Parts 91 and 107 to prohibit use of ADS-B Out or ATC Transponders on UAS unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, or if flying under a flight plan and in two-way radio communication with ATC.
- ADS-B Out & ATC transponder authorization is likely for large UAS operating in controlled airspace.
- Part 89 prohibits the use of ADS-B Out as a means of meeting remote ID requirements.
- Aeronautical Research
- The rule provides for operators to seek special authorization to operate UA without remote identification for the purpose of aeronautical research or to show compliance with regulations.
- Deviation authority
- Final rule provides a mechanism for the FAA Administrator to authorize deviations from the operating requirements.
- Foreign Registered Civil Unmanned Aircraft Operated in the United States
- The rule allows a UA registered in a foreign country to be operated in the United States only if the operator files a notice of identification with the FAA. This enables the FAA and law enforcement to correlate a remote ID broadcast with a person responsible for the operation of a foreign-registered UA.
Major Changes from Proposed Rule to Final Rule
- Network-based / Internet transmission requirements have been eliminated. The final rule contains Broadcast-only requirements.
- UAS operators under the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations may continue to register with the FAA once, rather than registering each aircraft. However each Standard UA or Broadcast Module serial number must also be entered into the registration record for the unmanned aircraft.
- ‘Limited Remote ID UAS’ has been eliminated and replaced with Remote ID Broadcast Module requirements to enable existing UA to comply.
- FRIA applications may be submitted to the FAA beginning 18 months after the effective date of the rule, and applications may be submitted at any time after that
- Educational institutions may now apply for FRIAs as well as community-based organizations.
Remote Identification Risk Assessments
I couldn’t find any FAA risk assessment for Remote ID anywhere. They aren’t in the docket or on the FAA’s website. We even received 2 “no records” determinizations to FOIA requests. (I redacted the names and addresses)
Remote Identification Timeline of Events
This timeline is very important so you can see what was happening overall during the rulemaking process. Pay attention to what was happening quietly with network ID.
- December 20,2018, FAA posted a RFI for remote id cohort.
- December 27, 2019, new final rule of DOT rulemaking regulations published. 49 CFR 5.17(a)(2) & (4) says, “(2) After the issuance of the NPRM and pending completion of the final rule, DOT personnel should avoid giving persons outside the Executive Branch information regarding the rulemaking that is not available generally to the public. . . (4) If the issuing OA or OST component meets with interested persons on the rulemaking after the close of the comment period, it should be open to giving other interested persons a similar opportunity to meet.”
- December 31, 2019, NPRM of remote ID published.
- January 2020- all the Remote ID cohort MOUs were signed. My theory is this was all rushed to get all signed prior to the 1/27 effective date of the new DOT rulemaking regulations.
- January 27, 2020, new DOT rulemaking regulations went into effect.
- February 26-27, 2020, Ex parte meeting on remote ID with remote ID cohort. Technical Interchange Meeting #1 in Arlington Virginia with FAA.
- March 2, 2020, NPRM COMMENT PERIOD CLOSES
- March 17, 2020- FAA sent out a request for information (RFI) on figuring out how have manned aircraft benefit from
- March 24-25, 2020, Technical Interchange Meeting #2 with remote ID cohort done via Zoom. They discussed the ASTM remote ID standard.
- April 6, 2020 – County of Oneida NY (aka NY Test Site) awarded UPP Phase 2 contract to work on remote ID.
- April 15, 2020 – DOT IG’s Office published a report showing FAA lacked adequate security for Drone Zone and LAANC systems.
- April 28-29, 2020, Technical Interchange Meeting #3 with remote ID cohort done via Zoom.
- May 5, 2020 – FAA put out a press release regarding the cohort being selected. (The MOUs were signed in January).
- May 8, 2020 – FAA had to send out a “clean up” email regarding the 5/5 press release.
- “1 Remote ID Cohort Information
Thanks for the questions we received after yesterday’s press release on the Remote ID Cohort. To clarify, the Cohort is not part of the decision-making process for the proposed Remote ID rule final rule. The Cohort will help the FAA develop technology requirements for other companies to develop applications needed for Remote ID. The comment period on the Remote ID Notice of Proposed Rulemaking closed on March 2, 2020, and the FAA is reviewing the more than 53,000 comments.
If you are a member of the media, contact us at [email protected] and a public affairs specialist will respond.
If you are a drone operator with questions about Remote ID, or any other drone-related question, please email [email protected] or call 844-FLY-MY-UA.”
- “1 Remote ID Cohort Information
- May 27, 2020 – Technical Interchange Meeting #4 with remote ID cohort on OAuth in Remote ID USS Data Exchanges via Zoom.
- June 29, 2020 Technical Interchange Meeting #5 on Zoom. Email says, “Q&A time with an FAA Executive concerning recent remote ID strategic decisions.”
- September 17, 2020, FAA secret remote ID demonstration at FBI training academy with federal, state, and local, law enforcement and some civilian entities like Drone Responders, NFL security, and Pierce Aerospace.
- December 17, 2020- Jay Merkle (head of FAA UAS Integration Office) sent out a letter to all the tribal leaders.
- December 28, 2020- DOT released a press release on the remote ID along with the draft final rules.
- January 15, 2021 – the Federal Register posting of the final rule was published.
- March 10, 2021, Federal Register posting that the compliance date of remote id is moved from March 16 to April 21.
- July 29, 2022, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals delivers opinion upholding the remote ID laws.
How the Remote Identification Rules Affect Different Groups:
First Person View Flyers
- Requires take-off location with GPS which means you need a GPS receiver attached.
- Unless you broadcast, you can only fly at a FAA-recognized identification area (FRIA). Only recognized Community Based Organizations (CBOs) or educational institutions could apply for a FRIA. See 14 CFR 89.205. Basically, your backyard, your neighborhood park, etc. are all off limits.
- Recreational flying of the under 250 gram aircraft (0.55 pounds) does not have to be registered or transmit remote id. Non-recreational FPV flying would require registration and remote ID even if they were flying under 250 grams.
RaceDayQuads has a very helpful page with much more on this topic. Many People were concerned about the RID regulations prohibiting FPV flying. Here is an excerpt from RaceDayQuads’ page explaining why FPV won’t be prohibited:
Doesn’t the new rules cause havoc for the FPV community since you have to fly within visual line of sight in the FRIAs or with module ID? If a FPV flyer was wearing goggles, how could the drone be within line of sight? They have goggles on ya know!
To answer this, we need to go back into history to understand the FAA’s evolving view of “within visual line of sight” and “able to see” to understand what is going on here.
For many decades model aircraft flew under Advisory Circular 91-57. The FAA started applying the Federal Aviation Regulations to unmanned aircraft and their view on things was evolving.
In 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed which created Section 336 that protected model aircraft from being regulated by the FAA. The FMRA defined model aircraft as “flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft.” P.L. 112-95, section 336(c)(2).
In 2014, the FAA issued a model aircraft interpretation explaining how they thought you should do things, “Based on the plain language of the statute, the FAA interprets this requirement to mean that: (1) the aircraft must be visible at all times to the operator; (2) that the operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft; and (3) people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Under the criteria above, visual line of sight would mean that the operator has an unobstructed view of the model aircraft. To ensure that the operator has the best view of the aircraft, the statutory requirement would preclude the use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model. reducing his or her ability to see-and-avoid other aircraft in the area. Additionally, some of these devices could dramatically increase the distance at which an operator could see the aircraft, rendering the statutory visual-line-of-sight requirements meaningless.” This is all before Part 107 became a law. The FAA was applying the regulations of the time, 91.113 which has a “see and avoid” requirement, to unmanned aircraft because the FAA believed that the FMRA’s “rulemaking prohibition would not apply in the case of general rules that the FAA may issue or modify that apply to all aircraft[.]” like Part 91’s regulations.
In 2016, Part 107 came out with Part 101 subpart E. Part 107 allows FPV flying under 107.31 and 107.33. Here is where people get tripped up. Section 107.31 says: (a) With vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, the remote pilot in command, the visual observer (if one is used), and the person manipulating the flight control of the small unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to: . . . . (b) Throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft, the ability described in paragraph (a) of this section must be exercised by either: (1) The remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system; or (2) A visual observer.” (Emphasis mine).
In 2018, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 hit the delete button on Section 336 and replaced it with now 49 USC 44809. This caused issues seeing that Part 101 subpart E was still on the books, but Section 44809 overruled it. Most recreational flyers desire to fly within the exception for limited recreational operations listed in 49 USC 44809 which says in (a)(3), “The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.” (Emphasis mine).
In 2019, the FAA cleaned things up by withdrawing the 2014 model aircraft interpretation which said FPV flying with goggles can’t see and avoid.
On 12/11/2020, the FAA withdrew Part 101 subpart E as a regulation because it caused confusion and was overruled by 49 USC 44809 which came from the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
CURRENTLY, you either fall into 49 USC 44809 which is for a very narrow group of recreational flyers (not all recreational flyers) or you fall into Part 107 which is for non-recreational flyers. That’s it. Remote ID in Part 89 applies to all unmanned aircraft, with some exceptions. All FPV flyers over 250 grams, flying in the national airspace of the United States, will have to do broadcast module remote ID, standard ID, fly in a FAA Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). FRIAs are granted only to recognized Community Based Organizations or educational institutions. Your backyard, friends’ yard, local park, etc. are most likely NOT going to be in a FRIA so FPV flyers flying a 250+gram drone are stuck doing standard ID (SID) or broadcast module ID (BMID).
Broadcast module ID allows for retrofitting aircraft but BMID has requirements:
“A person operating an unmanned aircraft that is not a standard remote identification unmanned aircraft may comply with the remote identification requirement of § 89.105 by meeting all of the requirements of either paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of this section.
(a) Remote identification broadcast modules. Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, a person may operate an unmanned aircraft that is not a standard remote identification unmanned aircraft if all of the following conditions are met:
(i) The unmanned aircraft used in the operation must be equipped with a remote identification broadcast module
. . . .
(2) Remote identification operating requirements. Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, a person may operate an unmanned aircraft under this paragraph (a) only if all of the following conditions are met:
. . . .
(ii) The person manipulating the flight controls of the unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft at all times throughout the operation.
. . . .
(b) Operations at FAA-recognized identification areas. Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, a person may operate an unmanned aircraft without remote identification equipment only if all of the following conditions are met:
. . .
(2) The person manipulating the flight controls of the unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft at all times throughout the operation.” (Emphasis mine).
So how do we figure out what this “able to see” means in Part 89? Do FPV goggles void that? If I am wearing goggles, doesn’t that mean I’m not ABLE to see?
The remote ID notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was attempting to define visual line of sight in Section 1.1. But that didn’t make it into the final rule. The final rule’s preamble said, “the FAA has determined not to adopt a definition for ‘visual line of sight’ in this rule.” They did not want to lock one definition in for ALL types of operations which may in the future have different definitions of visual line of sight, so they abandoned a one definition scenario. No help there. We need to look elsewhere.
In the remote ID NPRM, the FAA proposed the definition of visual line of sight from 107.31; therefore, that would be the most appropriate, and only other place to look, to identify how to define this term. Context of 107.31 helps bring to light what is meant. Section 107.31 says, “(a) With vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, the remote pilot in command, the visual observer (if one is used), and the person manipulating the flight control of the small unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to: . . .(b) Throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft, the ability described in paragraph (a) of this section must be exercised by either: (1) The remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system; or (2) A visual observer.” (Emphasis mine). Here is a comparison.
89.105 (Broadcast Module Remote ID or FRIA) 107.31 “The person manipulating the flight controls of the unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft at all times throughout the operation.” “the person manipulating the flight control of the small unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to:”
For 107.31, there is the ability to see by taking off the goggles and see the unmanned aircraft. The ability is primarily a distance and human capability number. The larger the drone, the further away you could fly. The smaller the drone, the shorter the distance you could fly it away. Now 107.31(b) says the ability must be getting exercised by the RPIC or VO. Section 44809 and Part 89 do not have any such exercising of the ability requirement, just the ability.
In the area where the FAA discussed visual line of sight in the preamble of the final rule, it said, “FAA Response: As noted, the FAA has determined not to adopt a definition for ‘visual line of sight’ in this rule. The FAA recognizes that the concept of visual line of sight allows for variation in the distance to which an unmanned aircraft may fly and still be within visual line of sight of the person manipulating the flight controls of the UAS or the visual observer. The FAA believes this is appropriate given the performance-based nature of current UAS regulations.” (Emphasis mine). The ability to see the drone is what limits the distance you can fly away. Ability determines distance.
If we read part 89 and 107 to be harmony, Part 89 does not restrict FPV racers from using goggles as long as the person manipulating the controls is “able to see the unmanned aircraft at all times” and keeps the unmanned aircraft “within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.”
Drone Light Shows
Unless you want to equip ALL of those drones with broadcast remote identification, you’ll need some authorization. Contact me if you need help with obtaining a deviation.
Standard ID allows for beyond line of sight flying while broadcast module ID does NOT allow beyond line of sight flying (unless you get some type of regulatory deviation). Contact me if you need to explore options for obtaining regulatory deviations regarding this. This means manufacturers will need to have their standard ID system approved by the FAA which could be time consuming and costly. Even if you choose to go the broadcast module route with your drones, there is still an issue with making the module compatible with your current system. Attaching a broadcast module ID to a drone has the potential to cause all sorts of unsafe and technological problems such as radio frequency interference of the command and control links and electro magnetic interference with the flight control systems and hardware.
I can see manufacturers sitting back and thinking long and hard before creating future products or identifying which aircraft they want to integrate with a broadcast module ID in such as a way to reduce the RF and EMI problems. On top of that, there is a lawsuit mixed up which is attempting to have the regulations struck down as illegal. Why would you invest money when a lawsuit could undo it all? If new regulations come out years later, will that product even be used or the regulations be similar to what we have now?
Businesses hate uncertainty.
I’m guessing law enforcement will want to NOT broadcast if they are flying under Part 107 as civil aircraft. Contact me if you need help with obtaining a deviation.
General Part 107 Flyers
You’ll need standard ID to fly beyond line of sight. You’ll need remote ID to even fly persistently over large crowds of people.
On top of that, standard ID transmits real time location of the control which opens you up to assault, robbery, harassment, false allegations of trespass/eavesdropping, etc. Broadcast module ID transmits the aircraft take-off location so you launch somewhere and then get to a safe location.
Your privacy was also thrown in the garbage. The FAA didn’t figure out session ID and kicked the can down the road which is evidenced by their statement in the final rule, “The FAA proposed that a session ID would be assigned by a Remote ID USS. Because this rule does not retain the requirement for standard remote identification unmanned aircraft to have an internet connection to a Remote ID USS, the FAA plans to develop an alternative strategy for assignment of session ID to unmanned aircraft operators. . . . FAA will seek public comment on the session ID policy prior to finalizing it.” Flightaware is gonna be jumping all over this like they did with ADS-B.
The Different Types of Remote Identification
Broadcast Module Identification
Here is what the FAA said:
Broadcast Module may be a separate device that is attached to an unmanned aircraft, or a feature built into the aircraft.
Enables retrofit for existing UA, and Broadcast Module serial number must be entered into the registration record for the unmanned aircraft.
Broadcast Module Remote ID message includes: serial number of the module; latitude/longitude, altitude, and velocity of UA; latitude/longitude and altitude of the take off location, and time mark.
UA remotely identifying with a Broadcast Module must be operated within visual line of sight at all times.
Broadcast Module to broadcast via radio frequency (likely Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology).
Compatibility with personal wireless devices and range of the Remote ID Broadcast Module message similar to Standard Remote ID UA (see above).
The idea is you attach some approved broadcast module to your drone to retrofit it so it could be compliant. The FAA thought, “Hey, it’s equivalent so we do not need to send out a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to alert everyone to this change and to receive feedback.” If they did send out a SNPRM, they could have received a response saying adding a broadcast module to a drone and controller introduces additional safety issues. Basically, attaching a second radio transmitter on a drone in very close proximity raises serious technical issues of radio frequency interference due to software filters unable to filter and the electro magnetic field issues where the 2nd set of electronics in close proximity can cause issues with aircraft’s electronic flight controls.
The FAA said:
Broadcasts remote ID messages directly from the UA via radio frequency broadcast (likely Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology), and broadcast will be compatible with existing personal wireless devices.
Standard Remote ID message includes: UA ID (serial number of UA or session ID); latitude/longitude, altitude, and velocity of UA; latitude/longitude and altitude of Control Station; emergency status; and time mark.
Remote ID message will be available to most personal wireless devices within range of the broadcast; however, correlating the serial number or session ID with the registration database will be limited to the FAA and can be made available to authorized law enforcement and national security personnel upon request.
Range of the remote ID broadcast may vary, as each UA must be designed to maximize the range at which the broadcast can be received.
If you want to fly BVLOS, you’ll need this. It also present a safety hazard in that your controller location is always being broadcasted in real time. Comon! That isn’t fair. A person can’t keep looking over his shoulder all the time for the bad guys who are looking to rob him when he is busy waiting for the FAA to ambush him.
Limited Remote Identification (Killed in Final Rule)
It was in the notice of proposed rulemaking but was killed. There were multiple reasons they killed it. I won’t get into them all now but two important things are that the altitude of the aircraft and controller were both derived from a barometric altimeter (not from GPS) which means all sorts of aircraft and ground control stations would have to be upgrade with hardware. The other important thing is limited remote identification was originally transmitting using the transmitters located already in the ground control station and the aircraft. You would have at least 1 transmitter in the drone and at least 1 in the ground control station.
The FAA figured they could come up with an equivalent idea called broadcast module ID that would satisfy some of the security concerns. They look similar, but they are not.
Network Identification/ Mass Government Surveillance (Killed in Final Rule)
Yes, network ID was killed in the final rule but below is what I was able to piece together to see how far the FAA was going to be “Big Brother” and monitor us. Massive violations of the 4th Amendment. My theory on this is that the FAA decided to scrap it and just let federal, state, and local law enforcement set up receivers to just log all the flights. Read the secret ConUse document I managed to obtain that the FAA secretly gave out to the big companies in those closed door meetings: T Mobile, Airbus, Amazon, Skyward (Owned by Verizon), etc.
So do we just forget about this? Just check out what shocking things I uncovered about how the FAA, DHS, and UTM were/are all interconnected and how this all currently intersects with the 4th Amendment. With all of that in mind…..put your 4th Amendment glasses on and read what I’m about to say.
Remote ID is part of the Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management System (UTM). FAA, NASA, DHS, DOD have been working on this. FAA, DHS, and DOD have a teaming agreement. DHS is going to be a federal Unmanned Aircraft Service Supplier (USS). While the FAA may be collecting a lot of the data, DHS could query things in the system. The FAA in explaining their Concept of Operations (CONOPs) regarding UTM, they said the following:
- “Flight Information Management System/FIMS FIMS is an interface for data exchange between FAA systems and UTM participants. FIMS enables exchange of airspace constraint data between the FAA and the USS Network. The FAA also uses this interface as an access point for information on active UTM operations. FIMS also provides a means for approved FAA stakeholders to query and receive post-hoc/archived data on UTM operations for the purposes of compliance audits and/or incident or accident investigation. FIMS is managed by the FAA and is a part of the UTM ecosystem.”
- DHS’s Air Domain Awareness Program is somehow connected to FIMS as a USS. See this Powerpoint presentation.
- “Air Domain Awareness is understanding everything that is in the air around you . . . Includes all manned and unmanned aircraft”
- “DHS is teaming with FAA and DOD to evaluate air domain awareness and counter UAS systems in real world situations”
- The UTM CONOPS says, “The FAA provides services to certain federal public entities in support of public safety and security needs; services may include provision of portals designed to facilitate automated information exchanges and queries to the USS Network for authorized data. Local, state, tribal and federal public entities may have dedicated portals external to the FAA by which they can request and receive authorized information; USSs meet applicable security requirements and protocols when collecting and provisioning data to such entities. Authorization and authentication between entities, using IATF compliant identities, ensure data is provisioned to those permitted to obtain it. Authorized entities utilize USS Network discovery services to identify individual USSsfrom which to request and receive data commensurate with access credentials. USSs must be (1) discoverable to the requesting agency, (2) available and capable to comply with issue request, and (3) a trusted source as mitigation/enforcement actions may be taken as a result of the information provided.“
- DHS’s Air Domain Awareness Program is somehow connected to FIMS as a USS. See this Powerpoint presentation.
- “The FAA establishes requirements and response protocols to guard NAS systems and the public against associated security threats. The FAA uses UTM data (e.g., intent, RID messages) as a means of traceability to (1) ensure Operators are complying and conforming to regulatory standards, (2) identify and hold accountable those who are responsible during accident/incident investigations, and (3) inform other NAS users, if needed, of UAS activity in the vicinity of the airspace in which they are operating. The FAA can use near-real time data from UTM to address security needs with respect to operations conducted under ATM, including managing off-nominal and exigent circumstances. They use archived data as a means to analyze UTM operations and ensure NAS needs and safety objectives are being met. The FAA can also use UTM data to notify federal entities of security threats. The FAA leverages the GRAIN and the IATF policies to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the information received from all UTM stakeholders. “
- “Local, state, tribal and federal entities (e.g., state police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, DHS) require access to UTM data to inform responses to local or federal complaints and safety/security incidents, and the conduct of investigations. Appropriate data access limitations are set by the FAA for individual federal and public/public safety entities (e.g., public information, classified information). Depending on the nature of the safety or security situation, historical or near-real time information may be needed. UTM data deemed publicly-accessible (e.g., RID messages) may be obtained by the general public through thirdparty services/applications and/or the government. UTM data that is not publicly-accessible (e.g., Operator contact information) is managed and provided based on the need to know, the credentials, and the level of access-to-information authorized for the requestor using identities issued compliant to the IATF policies.”
- “Operators must satisfy FAA-stipulated data archiving and sharing requirements to support safety and security. Stakeholders may need information on active UTM operations for the purposes of aircraft separation and identification of UAS affecting air/ground activities, among other things, such that Operators respond to requests from authorized entities in near-real time; an example of such information is RID messages. Operators are required to archive certain data to support post-flight requests by authorized entities with a need to know (e.g., FAA, public entities), as previously noted; examples of such data may include operation intent, 4D position tracks, reroute changes to intent, and off-nominal event records (e.g., rogue UAS).”
Yes, network ID was killed in the final rule. But was DHS disconnected from as a USS from the FAA’s FSIMS database? Did they have access in the past? What access were they ever given? Is DOJ or DOD presently connected to FSIMS in any capacity? What records did any of them search? Did they have access to the LAANC, Drone Zone Accounts, Part 48 registration database with associated information, or any other databases?
How does this work into the digital investigations unit in the FAA? The FAA also has been developing the UAS Digital Investigations (UAS DI) Program. Here is the CONOPs.
FAA Accepted Means of Compliance for Remote ID
On August 11, 2022, the FAA published the acceptance of the ASTM remote ID standard ….kinda. Interestinly, the FAA did not choose to accept the ASTM rule alone but just added on their own set of requirements. What’s the point of ASTM standards if the FAA just tacks on whatever they want onto any standard? What’s the purpose of rulemaking if the FAA just tacks on extra requirements onto these standards? Here are the FAA additions:
“The FAA-accepted MOC provided in this policy therefore is comprised of ASTM F3586-22 with the following additions:
1. The remote identification system shall protect the part 89-required broadcasted message from being altered or disabled by any person.
2. The remote identification system shall incorporate techniques or methods that reduce the ability of any person to physically and functionally modify or disable any aspect or component of the remote identification system that could impact compliance with the remote identification rule.
3. In applying Section 7.5.2 of ASTM F3586-22, the applicant shall determine whether masking the specified items from user input adequately provides the functional tamper resistance protection specified by this means of compliance, and if it does not, shall incorporate additional functional tamper resistance techniques or methods in accordance with this means of compliance.”
The FAA will over time add more of these means of compliances. You can check the current list of remote ID means of compliance here.
Contentious Background of How Remote ID Was Developed
The FAA was not honest and open about what happened in the creation of remote ID.
Ex-Parte Regulations and FAA NPRM Developments
It was literally a house ex parte. But this is kinda illegal. The FAA attorneys know that. More on that later but let’s first focus on the law. I put in bold the really important points.
49 CFR §5.19 Public contacts in informal rulemaking.
(a) Agency contacts with the public during informal rulemakings conducted in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553.
(1) DOT personnel may have meetings or other contacts with interested members of the public concerning an informal rulemaking under 5 U.S.C. 553 or similar procedures at any stage of the rulemaking process, provided the substance of material information submitted by the public that DOT relies on in proposing or finalizing the rule is adequately disclosed and described in the public rulemaking docket such that all interested parties have notice of the information and an opportunity to comment on its accuracy and relevance.
(2) After the issuance of the NPRM and pending completion of the final rule, DOT personnel should avoid giving persons outside the Executive Branch information regarding the rulemaking that is not available generally to the public.
(3) If DOT receives an unusually large number of requests for meetings with interested members of the public during the comment period for a proposed rule or after the close of the comment period, the issuing OA or component of OST should consider whether there is a need to extend or reopen the comment period, to allow for submission of a second round of “reply comments,” or to hold a public meeting on the proposed rule.
(4) If the issuing OA or OST component meets with interested persons on the rulemaking after the close of the comment period, it should be open to giving other interested persons a similar opportunity to meet.
(5) If DOT learns of significant new information, such as new studies or data, after the close of the comment period that the issuing OA or OST component wishes to rely upon in finalizing the rule, the OA or OST component should reopen the comment period to give the public an opportunity to comment on the new information. If the new information is likely to result in a change to the rule that is not within the scope of the NPRM, the OA or OST component should consider issuing a Supplemental NPRM to ensure that the final rule represents a logical outgrowth of DOT’s proposal.
I have no idea how the FAA complied with the regulations above during all of the stuff below….such as during the secret FBI academy remote ID demo where the FAA booklet literally says, “Brief summary of demonstration and Q&A” Drone Responders, Pierce Aerospace, NFL security and a bunch of state and local law enforcement went to this special meeting. Why did Drone Responders get to go to this secret meeting but not AMA, AUVSI, or anyone else?
What about all of the other people who applied to be part of the remote ID cohort but didn’t get chosen like GE, Kittyhawk, etc.? The FAA never gave them an opportunity to be included.
With all of these regulations in mind, keep reading below to see if FAA violated any of them.
Remote Identification Cohort
The FAA also did all sorts of stuff with 8 companies working on network ID. This was all done privately. Here are the actual memorandum of understanding (MOU) documents the FAA signed in conjunction with Airbus, Airmap, Amazon, Intel, Onesky, Skyward, T-Mobile, and Wing
If you don’t believe those are true, see this Certification by the FAA saying these MOUs are true.
The FAA picked 8 companies to enter into agreements with to work on remote ID AFTER the remote ID NPRM was published.
Remember 5.19(a)(2) “After the issuance of the NPRM and pending completion of the final rule, DOT personnel should avoid giving persons outside the Executive Branch information regarding the rulemaking that is not available generally to the public.” The MOUs all said the FAA would provide a ConUse document.
“The FAA will: i. Provide access to data sets, ConUse document, draft Performance Rules and ICD. i. Provide subject matter expert review and advice to proposed technology products, concepts, equipment, software, and other related activities.”“A^3 by Airbus, LLC will: i. Participate in monthly meetings (nominally 2 days in duration) in person in the Washington, D.C. area. ii. Send 2-3 representatives from its organization to each meeting referenced in Section 6(c)(i) of this MOU. Representatives that A^3 by Airbus, LLC provides for these meetings must possess the demonstrated capability to cover strategic, technical, and/or legal aspects of Remote ID.”
Here is the Concept of Use of for Network ID.
Here is the certificate of true copy of the Concept of Use document.
None of this was disclosed in the rulemaking docket
5.19(a)(1) says, “DOT personnel may have meetings or other contacts with interested members of the public concerning an informal rulemaking . . . , provided the substance of material information submitted by the public that DOT relies on in proposing or finalizing the rule is adequately disclosed and described in the public rulemaking docket such that all interested parties have notice of the information and an opportunity to comment on its accuracy and relevance.
The MOUs called for meetings with the Cohort where representatives would be meeting to discuss network ID. Information DID go from these 8 companies to the FAA. Here is the agenda, Powerpoint Presentation for the meeting, and the minutes of the meeting explaining what the companies and FAA talked about.
The MOUs have a lot of troubling statements (note that all 8 companies appear to have the same language in their respective MOUs with the FAA). I can’t figure out how any of these points could be done with the 8 companies submitting information to the FAA without the FAA relying on for network ID:
- “The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to establish a working relationship between (FAA) and A^3 by Airbus LCC that will facilitate a collaborative working environment for the development of a technical and legal framework for initial prototyping and testing that will inform a national capability for Remote ID Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Service Suppliers (UAS) future for Remote Identification (Remote ID).”
- “The FAA, working with the selected industry cohort, intends to build out a feature set and hold a prototype evaluation. The FAA also intends to evaluate the features in the prototype, address findings, and then roll the features out in a larger evaluation.”
- “Apply collaborative problem solving among FAA and USS (e.g. virtual and in-person workshops) to identify sUAS information sharing needs, assess experience data collected from demonstrations, and recommend system enhancements.”
- “Demonstration collaboration phase: Establish collaborative problem-solving among FAA, other government entities, and industry cohort to address sUAS Remote ID information and data sharing needs, assess experience data collected from demonstrations, and recommend system enhancements.”
- “Alternative approaches, technology solutions, development models, business models, evaluation paths, scaling strategies, etc., for information sharing[.]”
5.19(a)(4) says, “If the issuing OA or OST component meets with interested persons on the rulemaking after the close of the comment period, it should be open to giving other interested persons a similar opportunity to meet.” Did you guys invite Kittyhawk, GE, or any of the others who applied? No.
5.19(a)(5) says, “If DOT learns of significant new information, such as new studies or data, after the close of the comment period that the issuing OA or OST component wishes to rely upon in finalizing the rule, the OA or OST component should reopen the comment period to give the public an opportunity to comment on the new information.” Instead of just following the regulations, the FAA just says in the final remote ID rule:
It has become apparent to the FAA that Remote ID USS may struggle in facing significant technical and regulatory requirements that go beyond existing industry consensus standards. Early in 2020, the FAA convened a Remote ID USS cohort to explore developing the network solution that is necessary to implement the proposed network requirements. The cohort identified several challenges with implementing the network requirements, which the FAA acknowledges it had not foreseen or accounted for when it proposed the network solution and Remote ID USS framework. For example, the cohort raised the challenge of developing and issuing technical specifications to govern remote identification interoperability when producers of UAS have not yet designed UAS with remote identification.
So how many legal violations did you spot?
O but there’s more!
Secret Remote ID Demo at FBI Training Academy
We found about this because the FAA published a comment here disclosing the existence of this secret demo. https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FAA-2019-1100-53261
The Public Was Not Invited and FAA forced attendees to sign a form promising to not tell you. “I will NOT discuss, divulge, or disclose any Information to any unauthorized person or entity. I will safeguard and prevent the unauthorized disclosure of Information in accordance with all applicable statutes, regulations, and orders. I will return all Information and all copies and reproductions thereof upon request of the FAA.” Just read the Remote ID Demo at FBI Academy Acknowledgement Form
Here is the document given out to attendees. Remote ID Demo at FBI Academy Logistics Book_final
More Ex Parte Events
Here are more examples of things being done NOT on the record, or according to the law, after the notice of proposed rulemaking.
- FAA sent out a request for information (RFI) on in March 17, 2020 (NPRM on remote ID closed March 2) to try and obtain answers on how “low altitude manned aviators. . . could participate in Remote ID, access data from the Remote ID USSs, or otherwise benefit from the Remote ID information being transmitted from UAS.” Multiple groups responded but none of those comments have been disclosed. The RFI said, “Responses to this RFI will not be included in the official docket of the NPRM.” On October 22, 2020, Jay Merkle did a presentation to the Drone Advisory Committee which said that they had 30 responses to this RFI. The FAA thought they “missed the mark when communicating what [they] were looking for in the RFI so they wanted to take a second chance at this and asked the Drone Advisory Committee explore this opportunity and make some recommendations. In the 30 responses, the pilot organizations said they see “dubious benefits:
- UASs have primary responsibility to avoid manned-aircraft.
- RID is security-centric; it may be inadequate to affect safety.
- Adding RID receiving capability would be an additional expense burden to low-level aircraft pilots.
- Low-level pilots are especially concerned with task saturation (e.g., avoiding obstructions & being distracted from the mission).
- Any solutions should integrate with current avionics (EFB, ADS-B).”
- FAA Contract to NUAIR for Remote ID Testing as part of UPP Phase 2.
- 12/17/2020- Jay Merkle (head of FAA UAS Integration Office) sent out a letter to all the tribal leaders. The FAA posted this in the docket.
Did Anyone Try and Stop the Ex Parte Fiesta?
The issue is the ex parte broke out AFTER the comment period closed.
Did anyone tell the FAA about this? Well the FAA attorneys knew. We didn’t have to tell them. (Kathryn Inman who is an FAA attorney was the author of the PDF for the secret FBI academy dem0.) That’s why the FAA posted to the docket TWICE to appear like they were complying with the regulations. ( FBI academy remote ID demo and the letter to all the tribal leaders.)
Tyler Brennan of RaceDayQuads LLC did let the FAA and DOT know. Here is his meeting he did with OIRA, FAA, and DOT. Tyler’s submission for the meeting is helpful in understanding why ex parte is really bad:
This is being submitted as it relates to the FAA’s rulemaking activities in adopting a Final Rule based on the NPRM published on December 31, 2019 that provided for public comment until March 2, 2020 but otherwise denied an extension of that comment period.
The FAA has repeatedly engaged in ex parte conversations, meetings, and other communications with the public, government entities, and businesses on the subject of the rulemaking after the NPRM was filed. These activities suggest that communications made privately may or will influence the agency in its Final Rule.
These communications, whether or not having actual influence, prevent the public from being able to reply effectively to the information that was presented privately to the FAA so the FAA could make a fully informed decision affecting the safety and security of the national airspace. It is possible someone in the public could have pointed out some serious life-threatening safety and security flaws that were not previously identified and to forgo this opportunity is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.
Furthermore, the Administrative Procedures Act and the Due Process Clause requires notice; however, we have no notice of what has been presented to the FAA or relied on privately by the FAA which made its way into the final rule.
Not disclosing everything creates the appearance there is one administrative record for the public and this court and another for the FAA. The mere appearance of ex parte raises questions as to whether the final rule was based upon public comments or secret meetings and secret documents. The FAA just needs to make some public argument for the reason why they arrived at their decisions while keeping secret the true primary reason. Communications outside the record seriously frustrate any meaningful judicial review as judges will not ever know what was really relied upon in deciding. This also frustrates any review under the Congressional Review Act.
This raises serious questions of fairness. The undermining of the fairness of the rulemaking process erodes the FAA’s ability to protect the safety of the national airspace. Many individuals will feel victimized and disenfranchised and therefore justified in not complying with the rules. How is anyone supposed to respect the FAA when the FAA is clearly violating their own rulemaking procedures?
Such improper and unfair ex parte contacts include, but are not limited, to the following actual related out-of-record contacts: the remote ID cohort, the secret meeting at the FBI Academy, and Jay Merkle’s presentation at the Drone Advisory Committee.
The final shaping of the rules may have been by compromised among the contending industry forces, rather than by exercise of the FAA’s independent discretion for the public interest.
We are asking that the FAA pause the rulemaking, disclose all of the ex parte events with summaries of those discussions, disclose all of the ex parte documents, allow the public to comment, and then proceed ahead.
Lawsuits Challenging Remote Identification
RaceDayQuads filed a lawsuit. My article on the case is here. RaceDayQuads v FAA. Unfortunately, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal was not troubled by the FAA actions and chose to uphold the regulations as legal.