Avionics News May 2020 - 34

UNKNOWN DRONE

Continued from page 33

FAA also wants to know its location, who is flying it
and where the remote operator is located on the ground.
This information will be shared initially with private
unmanned support services companies allowed by
the FAA to support flight planning and tracking of
drone operations. Think of these as private air traffic
control outfits that will share tracking information
among themselves and with the FAA. The data will
also go to the Department of Defense, the Department
of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies.
Since there are more than 1 million recreational drones
registered in the United States and more than 440,000
commercial drones, there will be plenty of air vehicles
to monitor. According to the FAA last year, the number
of commercial drones could triple by 2023 though the
growth of recreational air vehicles was slowing.
The FAA does not envision sending all the data on
drones being tracked to air traffic controllers so it can
be displayed on their screens in towers, terminal radar
approach control facilities and air route air traffic
control centers. The number of drone targets that could
appear on a screen could overwhelm a controller's
capacity to absorb information. There are about 5,000
manned aircraft in the air over the United States on a
typical day, and there could be several times that many
drones flying over just the Los Angeles basin at the
same time.
The FAA does have a way already to make sure that
drones are operating safely near airports without having
the drone pilot contact the tower. The low altitude
authorization and notification capability allows a drone
operator to automatically obtain an authorization to
operate in controlled airspace near an airport. There are
still, however, many issues to be worked out on how
operations with commercial drones and manned aircraft
together above 400 feet will be handled on a large
scale.
One of the big drivers behind the remote ID rule
is the need for the FAA and federal and local law
enforcement agencies to deal with drones that are
being operated in an unsafe manner or ones that pose
security threats. There are many clueless, careless and
even a few criminal operators of drones (for example,
smugglers on the southern border). The FAA and the
aviation industry have been working together to educate
the uninformed drone operators about the rules of the
road and what airspace they need to avoid altogether
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2020

such as flying over nuclear power plants or restricted
military bases.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems
International and the Academy of Model Aeronautics
have partnered with the FAA to set up the Know Before
You Fly website to educate prospective drone operators
about the safe and responsible operations.
The remote ID rule applies to drones that weigh
.55 pounds (250 grams) or more and includes almost
all recreational and commercial drones. However,
DJI, a Chinese company that sells about 70% of all
drones flying in the United States, has made a drone
weighing 249 grams that does not need to be registered
for recreational flying. The Mavic Mini drone carries
a camera that can shoot video or 12-megapixel still
photographs. The $400 quadcopter's four arms fold up
so it can fit into a compact carrying case.
A remote ID message will be transmitted from
the drone over the internet or broadcast over a radio
frequency depending on the type of operation as
defined by the FAA proposed rule. One category of
operations would be permitted using only the internet to
connect if the drone is operating below 400 feet within
visual line of sight of the operator. Two years after the
rule takes effect, drone manufacturers would have to
include a self-test, so if remote ID is not working, the
drone would not be able to take off. And it would not
be possible for the operator to turn off the remote ID
function. The FAA maintains that part of the existing
fleet of drones could be easily and inexpensively
retrofitted to comply with remote ID requirements.
The FAA has not said how soon it will publish a
final rule or when it will take effect. Two years after
the final rule is published, any drone sold in the United
States would have to comply with the regulation, and
three years after that, all drones would have to comply
regardless of when they were purchased.
Amit Ganjoo, the founder and chief executive
officer of ANRA Technologies, a supplier of unmanned
aircraft system traffic management systems used by
many companies and government organizations, said
the proposed rule "is a good starting point but it is not
perfect." He thinks there are ways that model aircraft
and recreational drone users can be included in the
ecosystem without adding so much of a regulatory
burden that might kill this type of activity.
Ganjoo says a drone will provide its GPS data and
identity to the internet via remote ID using Wi-Fi or
Bluetooth. A citizen who sees a drone flying over his
house will be able to identify it using a cellphone, but



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