Why Did the FAA Go with Broadcast Remote ID for Drones Over Network?

In March of 2020, the commenting period on the NPRM on Remote ID had closed with over 52,000 comments to the FAA. A hotly debated topic, the biggest question that hung in everyone’s minds was whether the FAA was going to rollout a networked only rule or not. For hobbyists, many individual pilots, and emergency response the cost, the potential privacy issues, and challenge of coming up with a networked signal was too steep. Many in the drone community thought that a rigid network-only rule would be a non-starter.

After the FAA digested those 52,000 + comments, they ultimately agreed and went with broadcast only, leaving many relieved with the change and others concerned about how the limitations of broadcast could impact the future of commercial drone operations and whether broadcast could also present privacy issues, perpetuating the debate of broadcast versus network.

Broadcast vs. Network 

Remote ID seems to have split the drone community into two camps: networked and broadcast. But the original idea was never intended to make this separation. It is worth taking a step back to point out that the ASTM International, a globally recognized industry-consensus standards body, which organized a consortium to create a Remote ID standard, never advocated for one or the other, but rather an either/or/both scenario, as Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox, pointed out to Commercial UAV News. 

Read more: Switch UAV

“ASTM International published a Remote ID standard in December 2019 (ASTM F3411–19),” said Fox. “After about two years of work, experts from academia, Fortune 500 companies, drone manufacturers, and drone startups were able to reach a consensus on what Remote ID should like for drones. The December 2020 Final Rule on Remote ID differs in one major and some minor areas from the ASTM standard. Whereas the ASTM Standard was bifurcated to allow either Network Remote ID or Broadcast Remote ID, or both, the Final Rule prohibits Network Remote ID as an acceptable form of Remote ID.”

What this means is that ASTM concluded that neither broadcast nor network could be a one-size-fits all solution. There are pros and cons to each solution, and both need to be available in order to fully support the industry. This is an important distinction because it explains to a large degree why there is a separation between the two camps—neither solution works entirely on its own, it works for some scenarios and not others.

It is unclear as to why it came down to one or the other, but at least for now, it is broadcast only. Why it is broadcast only (again, at least for now) and not networked is something we can and should dive into because it points to where we are as an industry.   

In a recent research study, DroneAnalyst concluded that it was hobbyists who have mostly unlocked the potential of commercial drone adoption, citing that in a survey of nearly 500 companies, 68% of drone programs were founded through bottom-up approaches (i.e., bringing a personal drone into work as a result of a hobby) rather than top down (i.e., through innovation or R&D departments, as an executive directive, or as part of an aviation department initiative).

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Source: Danielle Gagne

Image credit: FAA


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