May 7, 2020

US Moves Towards Mandatory Drone Tracking Devices


The U.S. is getting closer to the day when most, if not all, drones (Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS in FAA terminology, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, or RPAS in TCCA/ICAO parlance) will be required to be equipped with tracking devices that will positively identify the drone and its precise location, similar to what an ADS-B OUT device does today.

In a press release issued this week, the FAA announced that eight companies will work with the American aviation regulator to establish technical requirements for future suppliers of the remote identification technology, a project referred to by the FAA as Remote Identification or simply Remote ID. The companies selected are Airbus, AirMap, Amazon, Intel, One Sky, Skyward, T-Mobile and Wing.

“The FAA will be able to advance the safe integration of drones into our nation’s airspace from these technology companies’ knowledge and expertise on remote identification,” according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

This marks an important step towards accomplishing the U.S. government’s goal of having drones remotely identifiable and trackable by national security and law enforcement officials, and also as a means of incorporating UASs into their national airspace.

On the last day of 2019, the U.S. government published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that aims to “…require the remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems. The remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems in the airspace of the United States would address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns regarding the further integration of these aircraft into the airspace of the United States while also enabling greater operational capabilities.”

Given the approximately 1.5 million drones and 160,000 drone pilots currently registered with the FAA in the U.S., the sheer numbers will bring down the cost of equipping the fleet with this new technology or building it in to new models. Canada will likely follow suit in the future with similar rule making.

Photo credit: iStock/gorodenkoff