The Current State of Remote ID
With September 16, 2023, the start date of the FAA’s requirement for Remote ID, only weeks away, numerous technical and administrative aspects are still evolving. This creates a challenging landscape for modelers who simply want to know what they must do to comply with the requirement.
The intent of this article is to provide the current state of affairs and address common questions/concerns, while acknowledging that further Remote ID-related developments are certainly coming.
What Is Remote ID?
The FAA’s Remote ID requirement has broad implications for commercial and recreational pilots of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or RC aircraft models). This article focuses only on aspects that pertain to recreational RC pilots flying under USC 44809. (This applies to most AMA members.)
The Remote ID requirement dictates that RC model aircraft flying in the US must broadcast a signal that provides specific information. The FAA’s stated intent of this requirement is to provide real-time information for law enforcement officers who are investigating suspicious UAS flight activity.
What Are the Exceptions to Remote ID Requirement?
The Remote ID requirement does not apply if you are flying at an approved FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). Many AMA chartered flying clubs have already submitted applications to the FAA (through a recognized community-based organization such as AMA) to gain FRIA status for their field(s). This means that the most RC pilots who are flying at a club field will not have to worry about Remote ID.
Recreational RC models with a flying weight of less than 250 grams are exempt from the Remote ID requirement, even when not flying at a FRIA; however, this exemption does not apply if the model is listed under the pilot’s FAA UAS recreational pilot registration (the FAADroneZone).
Free Flight and Control Line models are exempt from the Remote ID requirement.
How Do I Comply With the Remote ID Requirement?
Models manufactured after December 16, 2022, and are sold as a complete, ready-to-fly package, must have built-in Remote ID broadcast capability. At present, this situation applies only to a selection of multirotors sold by companies such as DJI and Autel Robotics.
If you fly one of these Remote ID-equipped models, you are good to go. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure of whether your multirotor is Remote ID compliant. Note that these models with factory-equipped Remote ID systems, must have their Remote ID broadcast active, even when flying at a FRIA.
By contrast, most traditional RC hobbyists fly models that require some degree of assembly or additional parts (e.g., the flight battery of an electric-powered ARF). These models do not have a built-in Remote ID broadcast ability. We must add that capability by using an FAA-approved Remote ID module.
Remote ID modules are small stand-alone components that work the same way as built-in Remote ID systems. These modules, however, can be temporarily attached to a selected model. You do not need a dedicated Remote ID module for each of your RC aircraft. You can purchase a single Remote ID module and move it from model to model.
When you purchase a Remote ID module, you must add the serial number of the module to your FAA UAS recreational pilot registration.
How Do I Choose a Remote ID Module?
There are currently fewer than 20 FAA-approved Remote ID modules available for purchase. That list will likely grow. The AMA does not endorse any specific Remote ID module or manufacturer, but you can read the Remote ID Module Status Report which compares many of the modules by the AMA Advanced Flight System Committee.”
Be aware that there is a considerable amount of variance among the currently available modules. It is important to understand the specific features of a given design before making a purchase.
Some Remote ID modules have a built-in battery, while others are powered through an external power source (e.g., an open servo port on the model’s receiver). This could be an important consideration in terms of weight and the accessibility of the receivers in your models.
There are Remote ID modules that include only the electronics, with no protective outer case. Omitting a case saves weight, but could cause durability issues and/or limit your options for mounting the module in your model(s). Presumably, most modelers will use hook-and-loop tape for mounting Remote ID modules.
Unfortunately, the average price point of the currently available Remote ID modules is significantly higher than the FAA’s original $50 estimate. Current prices range from $49 to $305 per module. Some of the least-costly Remote ID modules do not contain a built-in GPS chip, which is required to determine the mandatory location data. These Remote ID modules can only be used with models that already have some type of compatible GPS system that can be integrated with the Remote ID module. Such a GPS system would be an exceptionally rare feature for the recreational models that most of us fly. Thus, these types of Remote ID modules are not a viable option for many recreational pilots.
What Information Is Contained in the Remote ID Broadcast Message?
The FAA’s Remote ID requirements state that the following information must be included in the Remote ID broadcast when using a Remote ID module:
- Serial number of the Remote ID module
- Current location of the model (latitude, longitude, and altitude)
- Current velocity of the model
- Takeoff location of the model (which is presumably where the pilot is located)
It is possible that some modules might transmit additional information
Who Can Receive My Remote ID Broadcast?
Remote ID modules broadcast data using a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signal that is intended to be received on a smartphone. Anyone with a smartphone who is running a Remote ID-capable app and is within range of the signal can potentially read the data from your model’s Remote ID module.
If your Remote ID module is broadcasting only the minimum required data listed previously, civilians reading Remote ID data will not be privy to your name or any private information; however, law enforcement officers will be able to cross-reference the Remote ID module serial number with the data in your FAA UAS registration.
Approximately 200 AMA club fields have received FRIA status approval thus far. The current approval rate suggests that many hundreds of FRIA applications will still be in the FAA’s queue when the Remote ID requirement goes into effect on September 16, 2023. It is unclear whether the FAA expects modelers flying at sites with a pending FRIA application to use Remote ID modules after this date. AMA expects the FAA to address this concern before the deadline.
The advent of Remote ID introduces numerous unproven technologies and processes for modelers, the FAA, and law enforcement officers. There are bound to be unforeseen hiccups and breakdowns as all sides come to terms with this unprecedented level of oversight with RC flying. We will provide updates to the Remote ID situation as they unfold.
FAA Recreational UAS Registration
FAA Remote ID Requirements
www.ecfr.gov/current/title-14/chapter-I/subchapter-F/part-89 USC 44809-Exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft