FAA Issues an RFI for a Remote ID System for Drones

On December 20th the FAA quietly announced the release of a Request for Information (RFI) looking for partners to help develop a realistic approach to sharing data that would be required to remotely identify small drones in controlled airspace. The data collected would include a unique identifier for the UAV, tracking information as well as drone owner and remote pilot identification.

The selected respondents will be known as “remote ID UAS service suppliers or USS” and will, at no cost to the government, participate in workshops, develop position papers, technical requirements, prototype technology demonstrations and conduct demonstrations with the FAA and with other partners. At the end of the process eight respondents are expected to be selected but the FAA clearly stated that they reserve the right to select more if needed.

This development tells us that the FAA wants to engage with industry partners that are interested in becoming USS’s with the intent of pursuing the establishment of a practical approach to information and data sharing for the purpose of implementing an enterprise Remote ID capability. The regulator is intent on selecting USS’s who will develop a technical and legal framework for initial prototyping and testing that will inform a national capability. According to the RFI, the FAA intends to open the program for broader participation as the framework matures in the near future.

For the purposes of this RFI, the FAA divides USS associated with small UAS (sUAS) into several categories. According to the regulator, manufacturers of sUAS may both operate sUAS and provide services associated with them. Web-based information purveyors may have service offerings that are targeted to both sUAS operators and other sUAS service providers. Network providers may have vertically integrated service offerings to enable sUAS fleet operations. In addition, large scale operations providers may both own and operate sUAS and the overall network operation.

The flexibility that is an inherent part of the RFI is critical, as future needs of the technology are expected to become increasingly sophisticated, more comprehensive, and progressively larger in scale and scope of demand. The many existing and potential combinations of operators and service providers require a flexible and dynamic approach to information exchange that will fulfill immediate needs for enabling current sUAS operations as well as anticipate future information exchange requirements.

The FAA is also particularly interested in “Remote ID” USS’s to participate in this program at no cost to the FAA. The demonstration objective is intended to allow for initial capabilities to be fielded across one or more private-sector platforms to gain experience with the concepts, processes, and technologies for information sharing. The experience gained in such “live” demonstrations of initial capabilities will be studied and applied to enhancing and scaling future capabilities as well as to broadening the user base of the demonstrations.

As a testament to the influence of this development, we’re already seeing details around what it could look like. Josh Ziering, CEO of Kittyhawk has expressed his intentions to participate in the FAA RFI, and it’s likely that InterUSS, an open source, network-based, remote identification solution, will be a major part of that participation. His company recently announced their work with Project Wing and AirMap to test this system of identifying drones that share their flight information through the LTR network.

This initiative by the FAA is an important step toward forming the technical foundation that will enable the full integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace. Many companies will be applying to be part of it, and it will have a major impact on how and when Remote ID will become a reality.

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About the Author

Juan received a degree in Geodesy and a master in digital photogrammetry from Universidad Central de Venezuela and a MBA in international Finance from Florida International University. He has over 750 hours of experience in photogrammetry navigation and camera operation in aircraft as varied as WWII B-25, Cessna 310, Lear Jet 25C and Piper Aztec. Juan holds a Commercial, Multi-engine Pilot certificate. Juan has been selling mapping UAV’s in Latin America for four years and is a frequent guest speaker in events where the safety of flying UAV’s and the fact that unmanned and manned aircraft inevitably will share the same airspace, is a relevant topic. He is the CEO of Juan B Plaza Consulting, a services’ firm specializing in UAV and general aviation issues.

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