In 2023, You Won’t Be Able To Fly Most Drones In the US Without Broadcasting Your Location
If you intend to fly a drone in the US, you’re going to want to pay attention: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just issued the single biggest set of changes to US drone law since the agency first took an interest in the technology. With the proper license, you’ll soon be able to fly at night and over people. But the biggest change is this: in 2023, it may be illegal for you to fly some drones at all unless you retrofit them with their own broadcasting equipment.
In 2022, the US government will require every new mass-produced drone weighing over 0.55 pounds (0.25 kg) to broadcast your location — and I do mean your location, not just the location of your drone. You’ll also be broadcasting an identification number that law enforcement can cross-reference with your registration number, as well as your drone’s speed and altitude.
The FAA is casting it as a digital license plate
It’s all part of a new “Remote ID” standard designed to give the FAA and law enforcement a handle on what’s actually flying around in the skies, and it makes sense we might want something like that, considering the current system only requires you to slap a sticker on your drone that nobody’s going to be able to see while it’s flying through the air. This way, law enforcement can theoretically figure out who’s flying any given drone dangerously and shut them down.
But the Remote ID rule doesn’t just apply to brand-new drones: in 2023; it’ll be illegal to fly your existing drones without that same broadcast. There’s no grandfathering clause for older drones, no exemption for home-built racing drones, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re flying it for fun or even just flying it indoors. You’ll either need to retrofit it with a new broadcast module or only fly it in a specially designated drone flying zone called an “FAA-Recognized Identification Area,” according to the new rules. No such areas yet exist — the FAA will be accepting applications for the new zones in 2022.
It’s also noteworthy the FAA isn’t saying precisely how or how far these drones need to broadcast their identity, largely leaving it up to manufacturers to figure out the best way to do so over the next 18 to 20 months, which is when new drones sold in the US will have to comply. “At this time, no means of compliance have been FAA-approved,” writes a spokesperson.
For a DJI-style drone that already packs plenty of technology and already connects to your smartphone, it might theoretically be as easy as sending an additional signal every so often, but it depends on what the FAA decides to approve in the end. DJI and Skydio couldn’t yet tell me what their paths forward will be, which makes me wonder if there’s some wrinkle I’m missing.
“DJI has long supported the FAA’s Remote ID initiative because it will enhance drone accountability, safety and security. The FAA’s deliberative process of reviewing over 50,000 public comments has resulted in a rule that will serve the whole industry, as operators move on to more complex drone operations that save lives and benefit society. We are reviewing the final rule to understand how DJI can take steps towards complying with the FAA’s upcoming requirements,” reads a statement from DJI.
What does “broadcast” mean? TBD
It is worth noting that while DJI railed against the FAA’s original proposal that might have required every drone to broadcast their Remote ID over the internet, the final rules explicitly don’t require an internet connection, and suggest that manufacturers might simply use short-range Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Go to this source for more information.