In an article published by DJI today, the manufacturer’s VP of Policy and Legal Affairs, Brendan Schulman, has come out strongly against the FAA’s NPRM on Remote ID, calling it “deeply flawed” and “a complex, expensive, and intrusive system that would make it harder to use drones in America.”
That description is particularly significant given that Schulman and DJI have long advocated for a Remote ID solution and consistently backed measures to increase safety and accountability in the drone community.
So how, in Schulman’s opinion, has the FAA got the NPRM so wrong?
Why does DJI think the FAA’s Remote ID NPRM is “deeply flawed”?
The first point is that the FAA’s proposal will require the vast majority of drones to be connected through the internet to one of the FAA’s chosen ‘Remote ID UAS Service Suppliers’.
It’s anticipated that pilots will be charged mandatory subscription fees to access this service, and in turn charged to access the skies. According to the NPRM, Remote ID UAS Service Suppliers will also store flight records for at least six months.
“This proposed requirement creates undue financial and compliance burdens and would impede America’s existing drone industry,” writes Schulman.
And then there are the technical barriers to compliance. Schulman points out that “thousands of drones and radio-controlled aircraft currently on the market have no means for internet connection and would be grounded.”
As a result of the new technical specifications required to adhere to Remote ID, many manufacturers would face increased equipment costs, while DIY drone kits used to develop technical skills or allow for customization would essentially be outlawed.
Drone operators with limited cellphone service coverage may need to sign up for more expensive data plans. Service fees estimated by the FAA to cost upwards of $5 per month alone would add an approximate 20% extra cost, per year, for the average drone user – even though the benefits of Remote ID are all for police and other authorities, not for drone users. (Actual fees would surely be much higher because that FAA estimate is based on an existing drone service called LAANC, which is far simpler.)” – Brendan Schulman, VP of Policy and Legal Affairs, DJI.
“Casual drone users would have to establish, maintain, and renew subscriptions just to fly occasionally in their backyards. School programs that use drones may decide the costs are just too high to continue. A gift of a drone on Christmas would saddle your recipient with endless monthly fees. And connecting all drones to the internet would create new cybersecurity vulnerabilities.”
Schulman makes the comparison between the FAA’s recent mandate for equipment to prevent collisions between passenger planes. As a result of that ruling, Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology is now required by aircraft flying in controlled airspace.
As such the rule is limited to fraction of the country and requires a one-time installation of equipment, which the FAA offered pilots a rebate for.
Yet for small modern drones, which Schulman rightly pints out “are responsible for zero reported fatal accidents worldwide, the FAA proposes the most burdensome solution conceivable”.
Lastly, Schulman writes that “the FAA’s proposal creates unacceptable points of failure. If the Remote ID service providers have technical difficulties, a substantial portion of the civilian drone fleet could be unintentionally grounded without warning.”
This stark reliance on unproven systems could shut down expensive Hollywood productions, complex industrial operations and even lifesaving rescue missions. Drones rescue people from peril about once a week in America, and that statistic is increasing, but the FAA proposal could stop that progress in its tracks.”
Unfortunately, the FAA’s vision of Remote ID released late last month is deeply flawed. The “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” proposal would hurt people who have safely and successfully used drones across the country for years. It would hamper the adoption of a technology that is bringing enormous value to America, as well as create costs and complications that far outweigh the benefits.” – Brendan Schulman, VP of Policy and Legal Affairs, DJI.
Why has the FAA ignored the ARC’s advice?
The FAA convened 74 people, including DJI’s Brendan Schulman, to serve as industry representatives on the Remote ID Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) in 2016.
Schulman explains that the consensus of the group was for drones flying under existing FAA rules to perform Remote ID via a radio broadcast, with network solutions an optional alternative.
At the time the ARC emphasized that “compliance is critically important for an ID and tracking solution to have value”.
In turn, that compliance will always depend on factors that include the ease of complying and the costs of complying.
The FAA’s solution aims to create a ‘complete system’ – no doubt one that’s future-proof and sophisticated enough to enable advanced operations from delivery to urban aerial mobility.
“We know this issue is challenging, and it is not an easy task to balance all the interests involved in protecting innovation while addressing security and safety concerns. Fortunately, the FAA received thoughtful, collaborative advice on how to do it, which we are disappointed to see has been disregarded without sufficient explanation,” laments Schulman.
Between now and March 2, 2020, you can read the FAA’s proposal and submit comments using this link.