Remote Identification: Why is the FAA’s Rulemaking a Potential Game Changer? Feb03

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Remote Identification: Why is the FAA’s Rulemaking a Potential Game Changer?

In our first posting of 2020, we covered the FAA’s Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems notice of proposed rulemaking, and promised that we would be blogging on the impacts of the proposed new rule.  This is the first of a series of postings as to the significance of the proposed new rule.

The proposed remote identification rulemaking is intended to give the FAA and law enforcement much-needed tools to address unsafe or prohibited drone operations.  The key issue here is: While there may already be some laws and regulations on the books targeting unsafe drone operations, the nature of drones themselves makes these laws and regulations very difficult to enforce.  Enforcement issues have been frustrating law enforcement and lawmakers alike.

The majority of drones are small, fast, and can fly a significant distance from the operator.  This means that, even if a drone is properly identified with the required registration markings, it can be impossible to link a drone with its operator in order to hold an individual accountable for the operation of his or her drone.  When it comes to enforcement of regulations or local laws and ordinances, these factors present a serious challenge. 

Enter the remote identification rulemaking.

The proposed rule requires most drones to broadcast or transmit important identifying information including: the drone’s ID information (serial number or session ID), latitude, longitude, and barometric pressure altitude of both the drone and the operator—the “control station.”   If the proposed rule is adopted, the FAA and law enforcement agencies would have near real-time access to information critical for at least two reasons.  First, law enforcement will have a new tool to distinguish between compliant and non-compliant operations, which may be helpful in determining whether a drone poses a security risk.  Second, and as important, the remote identification information will allow for those enforcing drone regulations to contact a person operating a drone in violation of the law.