Part 89 – the ruling that contains Remote ID for drones – becomes effective April 21, 2021, and the clock starts ticking for compliance. Here’s a clear expanation of the requirements for operators and manufacturers.
The following is a guest post by Ronald E. Quirk, Head of the Drone/UA Regulatory Practice and Internet of Things and Connected Devices Practice at Marashlian & Donahue PLLC, located in Tysons, VA. DRONELIFE neither accepts nor makes payments for guest posts.
The commercial drone market is on the verge of exponential growth. For many years, drones (i.e., “unmanned aircraft” or “UA”) were the domain of hobbyists; not typically utilized by commercial enterprises. But in 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), through Part 107 of its rules, started granting waivers for commercial entities to operate drones in the U.S., which resulted in exponential growth in the U.S. drone industry. According to Business Insider, since 2016 annual sales of drones increased from $8.5 billion to an expected $12 billion in 2021.
Now the FAA is implementing a new rule section, Part 89, which will create a regulatory environment wherein drone operations can be fully integrated into U.S. airspace and enable greater commercial operational capabilities of drones, while promoting safety and security. Part 89, like Part 107, is sure to further increase the market for drones, which is now expected to grow to $63.6 billion by 2025. It is predicted that drone growth will mainly occur across five main industry segments: agriculture, construction and mining, insurance, telecommunications, and law enforcement, but niche operations will benefit as well. Part 89 is effective as of April 21, 2021 (the original effective date was March 16, 2021, but due to administrative issues, the FAA moved the date to April 21).
While Part 89 will create the regulatory certainty that will grow and solidify the commercial drone market, drone operators, and especially manufacturers, will be subject to a tremendous number of new regulatory requirements for compliance with the FAA’s Remote Identification (“Remote ID”) process, which is the crux of the new rule section. Part 89 requires virtually all types of commercial drones to broadcast remote ID messages via unlicensed radio frequencies that will be compatible with personal wireless devices. Consequently, drones are subject to various types of new operational, performance, and message element requirements. These new requirements require drone manufacturers to comply with many new regulations which entail a plethora of filings with the FAA and other forms of rule observances to ensure compliance with Part 89’s Design and Production rules. Moreover, drone manufacturers will be subject to the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) radio-frequency equipment rules.
Remote ID Requirements
UA suppliers and operators have three different options for complying with the new Remote ID requirements. No matter which option is chosen, the operators and suppliers will be subject to substantial amounts of new regulatory work, in addition to the existing registration requirements under Part 107 of the FAA’s rules.
- Standard Remote ID UA
This requires UAs to broadcast Remote ID messages from drones using unlicensed radio frequencies (e.g., Wi-Fi frequencies), and broadcasts will be compatible with personal wireless devices. The Remote ID broadcasts are subject to: (a) operational requirements, including: continuous broadcasting from takeoff to shutdown, interference considerations, self-testing and monitoring, and error correction; and (b) message element conditions, including: integration of a unique identifier, control stations’ coordinates and altitudes, time marks, and messaging rates. The UA must be capable of broadcasting the message elements using a non-propriety broadcast specification.
- UA With a Remote Broadcast Module
This option enables retrofitting of UAs and provides flexibility to UA operators whose aircraft do not meet the requirements for Standard Remote ID UA. UAs may be equipped with a remote ID broadcast module by attaching Remote ID broadcast module to the UA or by other means (e.g., software upgrade). Operation of UA equipped with Remote ID modules is restricted to the visual line of sight (“VLOS”) of the UA operator. The operational and message element requirements for broadcast modules are similar, but not identical, to those of Standard Remote ID UAs
- FAA-Recognized Identification Area (“FRIA”)
FRIAs are geographic areas recognized by the FAA where UAs not equipped with Remote ID are permitted to operate. The only eligible entities for FRIA are FAA-recognized community-based organizations, and educational institutions. Operators must fly UAs in VLOS. In order to obtain use a of a FRIA, an eligible entity must submit an application for same to the FAA containing specified information including a detailed description of the intended purpose of the FRIA and an in-depth explanation as to why the proposed FRIA is necessary for that purpose. If the FAA accepts a FRIA application, authority to use the FRIA is good for 48 months and can be renewed in advance of the expiration date.
Remote ID Design and Production
Standard Remote ID UA and broadcast modules must be meticulously designed and produced to meet the requirements of Part 89. UA manufacturers are responsible for compliance with these rules. The design and production rules are rather convoluted, e.g., different rules apply if a manufacturer chooses to produce a UA in accordance with the FAA’s Part 21 certification procedures or not.
In general, the following design requirements apply to UA manufacturers:
- Serial Number. Manufacturer must assign a serial number to the UA or broadcast module that complies with the standard ANSI/CTA-2063-A.
- Means of Compliance (“MoC”). This is a showing that the proposed UA design meets the requirements of Part 89. Manufacturers are required to submit a MoC to the FAA, which must approve it before the proposed design can be used for a UA or module. The MOC must contain, at a minimum: (a) a detailed description of the means of compliance; (b) an explanation of how the MoC addresses all of the requirements of Part 89; and (c) testing and validation procedures.
- Declaration of Compliance (“DoC”). This is another document that manufacturers are required to submit to the FAA. The DoC generally contains: (a) make and model of the UA or module; (b) serial number; (c) Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) identifier to demonstrate that any component that transmits radiofrequency energy has been certified by the FCC; (d) MOC (as attachment); (e) manufacturer declaration that it can demonstrate that the equipment complies with Part 89; and (f) statement that the FCC-compliant equipment was integrated into the UA or module without modification to such equipment.
- Labeling. Manufacturers must ensure that a UA or broadcast module displays a label indicating that equipment meets the requirements of Part 89. The label must be in English and be legible, prominent, and permanently affixed to the UA or module.
Most of the production and design rules are effective as of September 16, 2022. But, manufacturers of Remote ID broadcast modules are subject to the MoC requirement, FAA inspection and audit procedures, and certain other regulations by April 21, 2021. The operational requirements are effective as of September 16, 2023.
Complying with all these regulations can be mind-boggling. The new requirements for UA operators are onerous enough, but the real pressure is on manufacturers. As shown herein, UA manufacturers are responsible for complying with all manner of design and production requirements and FAA flings. Moreover, manufacturers must ensure compliance with FCC equipment authorization rules. Any manufacturer who fails to comply with the applicable regulations will be subject to enforcement proceedings that often result in hefty fines and other market barriers. In other countries, authorities will confiscate non-compliant equipment and ban the marketing of a company’s products. Working with a good lawyer or regulatory consultant can help ensure compliance with the new rules and free up opportunities for business growth.
For further information please contact Ronald E. Quirk at [email protected] or (703) 714-1305.
Ronald E. Quirk is the Head of the Drone/UA Regulatory Practice and Internet of Things and Connected Devices Practice at Marashlian & Donahue PLLC, located in Tysons, VA. He focuses his practice primarily on federal, state, and international administrative law, with an emphasis on regulation, adjudication, and policy. Mr. Quirk’s specialties include assisting clients with up-front regulatory compliance (e.g., device authorization and compliance with marketing and operational rules), to free them to grow their businesses without worrying about whether their produces can be marketed, while also representing them in regulatory enforcement proceedings in the event a rule violation occurs. Mr. Quirk also works closely with clients to develop their new RF devices and other regulated equipment, by obtaining waivers and experimental licenses which enable them to legally test their products before launching them in the marketplace.