The FAA announced a long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Remote ID for drones on 12/31/2019. The comment period required by federal law is open until March 2, 2020 (if you wish to comment, you may review the NPRM and do so here.) Over 13,000 comments have been submitted so far – and from “over-regulation at its finest” to “unreasonable” and “deeply concerned,” the comments are overwhelmingly negative. While that may simply reflect the fact that those who comment wish to see a change, some clear themes emerge from the comments posted so far.
The Recreational Drone Community: “Deeply Concerned”
The vast majority of individual comments come from the recreational drone community. Many of these comments use the AMA’s suggested template for comment: one which says “I am deeply concerned that some elements of the proposal could impose significant costs on the model aviation community and unnecessarily restrict existing, safe model aircraft operations.” Many, however, tell stories about involvement in a hobby that they see disappearing overnight as a result of the rule.
The recreational community, including the largest representative community-based organization, the AMA, has legitimate concerns. The variety of aircraft involved in the hobby and the CBO-led activities which have earned a stellar safety record over decades are not well-represented in the rule. As just one example: while the rule would allow recreational aircraft to fly at designated flying fields, those fields would have to be designated quickly – resulting in a permanent fixed list. That doesn’t reflect the reality of changing property uses, with some fields closing or changing location every year.
Professional Operators: “Increasing Costs”
Part 107 licensed commercial operators have also expressed concern over the rule. For farmers flying over their fields daily to monitor crops to drone service providers gathering aerial data for construction sites, many Part 107 operators don’t see a safety benefit to outweigh the costs of compliance.
Most of these operators comment that the remote nature of their work makes compliance both difficult and unneccesary. Flying in remote areas is inherently less risky, say pilots. While flying in remote areas, the lack of a reliable communications network could require them to carry hardware: that, commenters point out, could shorten flight endurance and add to their costs.
Hardware Manufacturers: “Deeply Flawed”
The largest hardware manufacturer in the world, DJI, has commented that the rule is “deeply flawed.” DJI has long championed the concept of remote ID and tracking as a critical step to integrating drones into the airspace. With over 60% (or more, by some estimates) of the commercial market, DJI will bear a large burden in making compliance easy for their customers. You can read more of DJI’s comments here, but in summary, the company says that the FAA has made the issue harder – more expensive and more difficult – than is necessary for safety.
DJI supports Remote ID but is advocating against the FAA’s Remote ID proposal to save drone innovators needless expense and hassle, and because we believe a less complex and costly Remote ID approach will do a better job of fulfilling the safety and security needs the FAA has articulated. We all want safe and secure skies. But few people who understand drone technology will support this proposal, except those who stand to profit from it.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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