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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Court of Appeals Upholds Drone Identification Rules

The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld rules set out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Remote ID, which provides in-flight identification of drones.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by Tyler Brennan, co-founder and CEO of RaceDayQuads, who argued that Remote ID rules violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment by allowing “constant, warrantless governmental surveillance.” 

But Judge Cornelia Pillard warned that increasing numbers of drones are posing a threat to national security. “Their ability to pry, spy, crash, and drop things poses real risks,” she said. “Free-for-all drone use threatens air traffic, people and things on the ground, and even national security.”

Remote ID is akin to a digital license plate. The FAA says the ability of a drone in flight to provide identification and location information helps the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly. Remote ID also lays the foundation of the safety and security groundwork needed for more complex drone operations.

There are three ways drone pilots can meet the identification requirements of the remote ID rule:

  • Operate a Standard Remote ID Drone that broadcasts identification and location information of the drone and control station. A standard remote ID drone is one that is produced with built-in remote ID broadcast capabilities.
  • Operate a drone with a remote ID broadcast module giving the drone’s identification, location, and take-off information. A broadcast module is a device that can be attached to a drone, or a feature (such as a software upgrade) integrated with the drone. Persons operating a drone with a remote ID broadcast module must be able to see their drone at all times during flight.
  • Operate (without remote ID equipment) at FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIAs) sponsored by community-based organizations or schools. FRIAs are the only locations unmanned aircraft (drones and radio-controlled airplanes) may operate without broadcasting remote ID message elements.

Manufacturers and producers of UAS must comply with the final rule’s requirements for them by September 16, 2022. Commercial and recreational UAS drone pilots must meet one of the three ways to comply with the rule when flying their drone by September 16, 2023.

On August 3, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen spoke about the safe integration of drones at the White House Summit on Advanced Air Mobility.

“More than 860,000 drones are registered today in the United States. To put this into context, that’s more than three times as many crewed aircraft,” Nolen said. “By 2025, we could have a total of more than 2.6 million commercial and recreational drones flying in our airspace, according to FAA forecasts. It’s critical that we have a standard set of rules for operations beyond visual line of sight – or BVLOS, as we call it – where you no longer have eyes on the drone. This would enable operations for things like routine package deliveries, infrastructure inspections and agriculture spraying and inspection.”

President and CEO of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI),  Brian Wynne welcomed the ruling. “Numerous industries are relying on drones for their operations, and significant industry growth is expected in the years ahead. Accordingly, the FAA issued a Remote ID rule that appropriately advances drone integration in a way that increases safety for all airspace users,” the AUVSI President and CEO said. “By harmonizing the needs of commercial and law enforcement stakeholders, the rule supports scalable, secure, and sustainable commercial drone operations. The final Remote ID Rule is absolutely necessary for the continued expansion of drone operations and the fulfillment of Congress’s vision of an integrated airspace that brings significant benefits to the American people. AUVSI commends the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for upholding FAA’s Remote ID rule.”

Wynne added that AUVSI will continue to advocate for a federal regulatory framework that unlocks scalable, secure and sustainable commercial drone operations that benefit the public and businesses.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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