With the rapid escalation of the drone industry, drones are no longer a sight for curious eyes. However, with this progression comes the need to ensure safe piloting methods. This is where the FAA comes into play.
If you are a drone owner who is absolutely new to the extent of control the FAA has over your drone tracking, here’s a simplified explanation for you.
The FAA has the authority to track any drone through its remote ID function. It's done by broadcasting a serial number and other necessary information about a drone’s whereabouts. With that said, the FAA does not track an airborne drone on a continuous basis unless necessary.
The agency maintains a check on aerial activities by monitoring drones to identify potential violations and carry out investigations. This is helpful for the pilots and the bystanders, especially in case of an emergency. And that’s exactly why you need to understand your duty to comply!
The drone industry is still in its phase-in period. So don’t worry if you are absolutely clueless about your role in complying with this FAA regulation in particular.
In this post, I will walk you through what you need to do, as a drone owner, to fall in with this new approach of remote IDs.
Let’s start from the very basics.
The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, is the regulatory authority in the U.S. that ensures safety for drone pilots, as well as the people and property on the ground. A great deal of this is now made possible with their conventional approach of specifying drone remote IDs.
The FAA Remote ID for drones is an electronic license plate system that is used to make drone identification and monitoring convenient. Similar to the concept of a vehicle license plate, the system promotes accountability of airborne drones. This way, the safety of the air traffic is maintained.
Once your drone has its remote ID, it will broadcast a signal specifying its position, altitude, and registered FAA serial number. This function will not provide any of your personal information.
If needed, in case, the agency will find your information as an owner via the FAA’s system. The process is basically similar to the way the authorities utilize your car’s license plate information.
This way, the FAA has a sharp way of having authority (of sorts) over the whereabouts of your drone at all times.
You see, the idea behind this entire approach is to make the airspace as secure as possible. If you do potentially come across a problem, and need the FAA to help you out, they will already have all of the necessary information to begin with.
Now, that’s a popular question among drone pilots. If you’re contemplating this too, allow me to break it down for you.
For most drones flying in the United States, remote ID is required. The FAA rule went into effect in April 2021, and the operators have until September 2023 to comply with it. To do so, you must have a drone with a built-in remote ID, retrofit your older one, or fly within an FAA-approved zone.
Let me go into a bit of detail about the three ways through which you can meet your remote ID requirements.
If you recently purchased a drone model from a reputable manufacturer, chances are you don’t have to take any additional steps. Newer products come with built-in standard remote ID capability. If your drone already has that, you are good to go!
So what if your drone doesn’t already feature the built-in remote ID function?
In that case, you will need an external device, such as a broadcast module, that can be attached to your drone. Alternatively, a software upgrade, if available, would work too. And with either of those, your drone would be in compliance with this new FAA rule.
This is only applicable if you plan on flying your drone in FAA-recognized identification areas. Such areas are specific for unmanned aircraft. As long as your drone stays within the zone, you are free to pilot it without necessarily needing the remote ID.
This is especially convenient for drones that cannot feature remote ID equipment. That said, in some particular cases, your drone is exempt from having a remote ID altogether. Follow up in the next section to know more.
Here’s what you need to know about whether your drone needs a remote ID or not.
All drones need a remote ID unless exempted as per the FAA regulations. These include drones that weigh less than 0.55 pounds (250 grams). Also, drones that are flown indoors or within FAA-approved zones don’t need remote IDs. Other factors, such as the intended use may also grant an exemption.
For example, if the purpose of your drone operation is for educational and research purposes within restricted airspace, there’s a chance that you wouldn’t need the remote ID function.
On the contrary, if you own a drone that weighs more than 0.55 pounds and intend to fly it for recreational/commercial purposes in areas other than the specified FAA zones, having proper, functioning remote ID equipment is mandatory.
Of course, the question of where you can and can not fly your drone on its own is a loaded one, which is outside the scope of this post.
It goes without saying that whether exempted or not, all drones should comply with FAA guidelines. Flying safely and responsibly is an all-time requisite!
As of now, most manufacturers have complied with the new FAA remote ID regulations.
Drones that have remote IDs include DJI Mini 3, DJI Air 2S, and Autel Evo Lite MDXM. Alternatively, other drones like the DJI Phantom 3, DJI FPV, and Yuneec Typhoon H do not have it. Note that the remote ID regulation is in its phase-in period where manufacturers are still seeking FAA approvals.
Here’s a list of some models that are and are not equipped with remote ID.
|Remote ID Compatible Models
|Remote ID Incompatible Models
|DJI Mavic 3
|DJI Phantom 3
|DJI Air 2S
|Yuneec Typhoon H
|DJI M300 RTK
|GoPro Karma Drone
|Autel Evo Lite MDXM
|Parrot Bebop 2
Again, this list is not exhaustive. My best approach is to keep tabs on the growing list from time to time and that’s exactly what I would encourage you to do.
It is, however, safe to say that in the upcoming months, there would be a plethora of new models compliant with the FAA remote ID regulations. For example, DJI recently brought some of their latest drones into compliance via firmware updates.
In case your drone model isn’t on the right side of the list by September 2023, you can always opt to go for the available alternatives instead.
While I’ve already covered what those alternatives are, I’ll be touching on the main one again in a later section.
Well, the greatest conqueror of the drone world wouldn’t stay behind, would it?
All the newest DJI drone models broadcast the built-in FAA remote ID. In fact, as expected, DJI was the first drone manufacturer to apply and seek FAA’s approval. The older drones that were released before the regulation came into effect can get their remote IDs by updating the official firmware.
As I already mentioned, all the new DJI drones that have been released after September 2022 are inherent with remote ID compliance. This means that you do not need to worry about any add-on or firmware update as you make your purchase.
For drones that are released earlier and have already complied, you just have to update the firmware and test the remote ID functionality.
As for the ones that are discontinued, they will likely not be remote ID-compliant.
Here’s a fun fact about drones that come with built-in remote ID functions, in case you’re planning on purchasing a new one: they come with a regulatory label with the notation “ASTM F3411-22a-RID-B”. Look out for it when you go in with your new purchase!
That’s a tricky question. Allow me to give you a simplified answer!
Considering it weighs below 0.44 pounds (250 grams), you can fly a DJI Mini 2 without a remote ID as long as it's for recreational purposes. For commercial purposes, it’s quite the opposite. That’s because according to the FAA, all commercial drones must have a remote ID regardless of their weight.
If you are using DJI Mini 2 for commercial purposes, the good news is that it already complies with the remote ID function. You can upgrade to the latest firmware by September 2023 and verify that your drone is broadcasting the required information.
On the contrary, if it's for recreational purposes, you are free to fly it around without a remote ID as well.
And yes, this applies for all the other drones that weigh under 250 grams. Other than the Mini 2, DJI Mini 3 and DJI Tello also make it to the list!
You are likely to come across some trouble while trying to figure out your drone’s remote ID number. But worry not, as I am not only going to tell you where you can find it but also clear a common misconception.
If you have purchased your new remote ID-compliant drone, you can find the identifier number located near the nameplate of the drone. Other than that, the DJI app also displays the number on the aircraft info page. Note that the remote ID number will have the notation “ASTM F3411-22a-RID-B”.
Let’s now talk about the common misconception I mentioned earlier.
You see, not all drones have their serial numbers the same as their remote IDs. This is the case only for remote ID-compliant drones which get a similar serial number and remote ID at the time of manufacturing.
Let’s say you got a non-compliant drone that was registered with its remote ID via other methods. In that case, I would simply recommend you check the app. Of course, your drone’s firmware must be updated to its latest versions before you do so.
As alluded to, this is the part where I talk about the alternative for you in case your drone model is not compliant with the remote ID function.
If your drone does not already have a built-in drone remote ID, you can alternatively opt for getting an external device called a broadcast module. It is an FAA-approved add-on that can be affixed to a non-compliant drone and can broadcast information as per the remote ID regulations.
The next important question is: which remote ID broadcasting module should you purchase? Well, as of now, the FAA has approved two broadcast modules for remote ID:
Consider going through the video below to figure out which model may be a better choice for your drone.
You can purchase the module before the deadline, integrate it with the drone, and you’ll be all set to pilot aircraft with added security.
I’m pretty sure that by now you have a good understanding of the FAA’s regulation as well as your role in complying with it. Let me give you a quick recap.
The FAA monitors drone flights for safety and accountability but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they monitor individual flights in real-time. The FAA uses the broadcasted information to some extent but the main goal is to promote safe drone operations and compliance with applicable regulations.
All in all – as a drone operator yourself, it is important for you to follow U.S. drone laws and make sure that you play your part in ensuring that the operations are out of harm’s way.
And don’t forget, you have until 16 September 2023 to get your drone’s remote ID!