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Starting September You Can’t Legally Fly Your Drone Without Broadcasting Your Location [UPDATED]

Fernando Lurie / Adobe Stock

ARTICLE UPDATED – CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LATEST UPDATE

ASHEBORO N.C. – If you own a drone, you need to know about the upcoming changes to FAA regulations and how these changes will make it illegal to fly a drone, even in your own backyard, without broadcasting your location and other data.

In the first half of 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published its final rule for “Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft”, now known simply as “Remote ID.”

These new rules are the biggest change to drone regulations to date and came about in response to requests from Congress reacting to the growing number of recreational and commercial drones. As of this month, the FAA says 869,472 drones have been registered and sixty percent of those drones are recreational with the remaining forty percent being for commercial uses, like real estate photography, surveying, agriculture, and search and rescue.

According to the FAA, Remote ID is necessary to allow the “FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly,” and that Remote ID “lays the foundation of the safety and security groundwork needed for more complex drone operations.”

Under the Remote ID regulations, starting on September 16th, 2023, at 12:01 am, all recreational drones over 250 grams (0.55 pounds), and all commercially operated drones must broadcast a “Remote ID signal” to legally fly in U.S. airspace.

That remote ID signal will show your location (the location of the pilot or the take-off location), the drone’s location including latitude, longitude, altitude, and velocity, a unique id for the drone tied to its FAA registration, and other data.

Drones without remote ID can still fly inside special flight areas known as FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA), but FAA data shows that as of July 2023, there are no FRIA zones in Randolph County.

Since December 2022, all drones sold in the U.S. have been required to have the ability to broadcast a Remote ID signal, but these rules don’t only apply to the newer drones; older drones that don’t have their own ability to broadcast a Remote ID signal must be retrofitted with a compliant third-party broadcast module.

Is your drone compliant with Remote ID?
Check the FAA’s Declaration of Compliance page on its website.

The Remote ID signal, and its data can be picked up not only by the FAA and law enforcement, but also members of the public through certain mobile apps.

“RID represents a significant step forward in drone regulation,” says Ty Cody, Owner and Founder of Pilot Lens, a commercial drone company located in Austin Texas that offers a variety of drone services. “However, there are aspects of RID that deeply concern me, particularly regarding the safety and privacy of drone operators.”

Cody says he is concerned about the potential threat that broadcasting the drone pilot’s location poses. ”With the current RID framework, anyone with a bit of technical knowledge could potentially locate drone operators. This could result in unnecessary confrontations with bystanders who are likely ignorant about drone law threatening to call authorities.”

That concern is shared by Darrell Williams, who works as a Geospatial Field Technician, a job that uses drones for mapping. Williams says he thinks that having the pilot’s location available to the public will increase the danger to drone pilots. “It should be encrypted and only be accessible on a need-to-know basis such as law enforcement or FAA. Allowing the general public to access this information increases the chances of a hostile altercation for the [drone pilot].”

Other drone pilots we spoke to also expressed these same concerns as well as concerns about theft of expensive equipment, and the threat to people on the ground. “Should the operator have to defend themselves, they could be forced to leave the drone’s remote control unattended. This situation could inadvertently lead to the drone being manipulated in a way that could cause a crash,” says Cody.

In an interview last year, Kevin Morris with the FAA’s Office of Communication said that there are sincere reasons that pilot or take off location requirements are in the Remote ID rule,”…that has to do with our ability to safely and securing securely manage our airspace and know who’s operating in our airspace and where they are operating.”

Morris indicated that the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security had input on the decision to include the pilot location in the remote ID rules and says the Remote ID signal is not broadcast nationwide.

Have Questions About Remote ID?


Check out the FAA’s Remote ID Toolkit as well as the UAS Remote Identification page on the FAA’s website for detailed information.

“You’re going to have to be fairly close to that drone to pick up that signal, realistically if someone is going to be picking up the remote ID signal from their handheld device they are probably within eyesight or earshot of that drone anyways. Realistically speaking, even before Remote ID, it doesn’t seem like if someone wanted to find the person flying the drone, they are not having too much difficulty doing that now,” said Morris.

“We need to think critically about the balance between ensuring airspace safety and protecting drone operators’ rights and safety. While it’s crucial to keep tabs on rogue or non-compliant drones, we also need to protect operators from potential harm and harassment,” said Cody.

Like it or not, Remote ID is coming and will take effect in just over a month and will be a requirement to fly a drone legally.


UPDATE

On September 13th, 2023, just three days before the deadline for Remote ID were set to go into effect, the FAA announced that they would be delaying the enforcement date by six months.

“Drone pilots who are unable to comply with the broadcast requirement of the Remote ID Rule will now have until March 16, 2024, to equip their aircraft,” says the FAA on the announcement on its website.

The agency cited “unanticipated issues,” including a shortage of remote identification broadcast modules, for the delay.