Hi all –

The Remote ID NPRM has unleashed a storm of public discussion. As I go to ‘press’ there are over 7,000 comments which variously describe it as intrusive, overly complex, costly, burdensome and of course unnecessary.

DroneDeploy CEO Mike Winn put it as well as anybody: “The whole drone community is looking forward to a remote identification solution, but we have to make sure it’s one that’s not onerous, with no negative privacy implications.”

DJI VP Brendan Schulman provided a longer explanation in an op-ed piece, We Strongly Support Drone Remote ID. But Not Like This.

In this post, we are not going to ‘go there.’ Instead, we are going to look at two little-discussed dependencies that will make or break RID. First is the necessity for investment by private industry in both manufacturing and software development. The headline here is that this dependency will make it difficult for the FAA to manage their own  timeline.

Second is that the successful rollout of Remote ID to law enforcement and the security agencies – is the point of this rule – not safety. Finally it is worth noting that this rule won’t change operations for years.

I’ve broken this issue into two parts. First, my perspective on the big picture. And then co-author Welund VP Travis Moran’s perspective on how well the NPRM addresses the operational requirements of
law enforcement.

To set the stage it is important to understand that the security agencies have a great deal to say about UAS. The FAA writes the regulations but they are not the only ones setting policy. This has been affirmed in several White House memoranda.

And if you are still struggling to understand the concern about UAS, I suggest that you spend a few minutes with this piece from NBC, Drones Are a ‘Real Threat,’ but U.S. Doesn’t Know How Many Are Out There, in which they interview Tim Bennett who “oversees DHS counter-drone technology.”


“One of the biggest problems is that we don’t have a true understanding of the complete air picture, and that’s what we are now just starting to get into.”


Instead of yelling at the screen, remember that it’s all a matter of perspective. You don’t have to join them but you’re not going to beat them.

Put on the coffee and let the sacred cows out of the barn. I am confident that you have yet to read a discussion of the NPRM that focuses on these issues.

AN EDITORS PERSPECTIVE

photo courtesy Pixabay

As set forth in the NPRM.

“…The ability to identify and locate UAS provides critical information to law enforcement and other officials charged with ensuring public safety.”

Whether you choose to call it pragmatism or realpolitik, the approach to universal RID mandated in the NPRM makes it clear that the administration’s goal is to get drones, seen by some as an out of control threat, under control.


Remote ID is a tool designed to be used on the ground by the FAA, the security agencies and law enforcement. It is not an air-to-air solution.


In a sense, this is the quid pro quo for the promise, as opposed to the guarantee, of expanded operations sometime in the future. Among the many things that the NPRM does not tell us is how far into the RID program the FAA will have to get before they can finish rulemaking on OOP and Night Ops, much less start in on new initiatives.

The reason we wrote this issue is that the success of the RID rule is foundational. As you will see, we do not believe that the FAA is on track to be successful. As I suggested in the ‘It’s A RID’ issue, utility and execution will be what will actually moves the needle.

One indication is that there are no metrics in the NPRM. It is reasonable to ask how the FAA will demonstrate compliance in the fleet and utilization by law enforcement to the security agencies so that they can move ahead with rulemaking for expanded operations. And too, there is the question of how we, the ‘other’ stakeholders, will judge progress?

Just issuing the RID rule is not going to be enough because nothing tangible will happen when they do. It’s simply a starting point. There is nothing in this rule that will change operations for years. Here is the timeline.

2020 – Assume that it takes the rest of 2020 to draft the rule.
2021 – FAA develops means of compliance and services from Remote ID USS
2022 – manufacturers begin work – in theory first products hit the market at the end of 2022
2023 – non-compliant products can not be imported or sold

The real question is, at what point will the FAA consider that RID will have been implemented? e.g. you may remember that the OOP and Night rules are delayed pending the Remote ID Rule. Will it be the beginning of 2023 when only compliant products can be brought into the country? Or will it be the end of 2023 when only compliant drones can be flown?

I think that this will be the big sticking point as people work to shorten the interval.

Because first, the FAA has to make this work.

UNDERSTANDING THE PLAN

What the NPRM describes can best be described as NextGen V2  – a near real-time system operating 24/7/365 continuously monitoring all of the sUAS operations in the US.

Read that again, then read the fine print. Because that’s what this is all about.
(Draft p.198)

Remote identification of UAS would enable the FAA, national security agencies, and law enforcement entities to have near real-time awareness of UAS users in the airspace of the United States. This information could be used to distinguish compliant operators from those potentially posing a safety or security risk.

Note that part and parcel of this is the idea that the FAA and law enforcement will be able to call operators (actually the registered owners’ phone) they determine to be a safety or security risk while they are in flight. (Draft p90)

Requiring owners of unmanned aircraft to provide their telephone number(s) as part of the registration process would assist FAA and law enforcement to disseminate safety and security-related information to the registrant in near
real-time.

Not hard to imagine AI monitoring the traffic looking for patterns.


People should be concerned that without a substantial investment by industry, RID will never happen.


Reading the NPRM I get the impression that the FAA isn’t planning on bringing any money to the table. Practically speaking that means that they will have little ability to manage the timeline. This vulnerability is exposed when they propose ideas like voluntary compliance. There will be nothing to comply with until private industry builds it and brings it to market. Since everything is performance-based, prudent companies will not invest until standards are locked in and openly published.

The FAA optimistically acknowledges this saying that (Draft p25):

Products would be available for original equipment manufacturers (producers) within one year of the requirements being known. This one-year period would start after the availability of FAA-accepted means of compliance and services from Remote ID USS—we expect means of compliance and Remote ID USS availability to take up to one year after the effective date of the proposed rule.

That’s how they get to the two years when everything must be compliant. (Draft p9)

No UAS could be produced for operation in the United States after two years.

What happens if there are no compliant drones for sale in 2023 if, as is likely, the process has been delayed?

The assumption is that manufacturers will be able to solve the compliance issues, complete the certification process and put a product on the shelves in 12 months. Keep in mind that the industry will still be operating under Part 107 plus waivers so I question how many companies will want to build a new drone just like the existing fleet.

A STICKY WICKET

Now ask yourself how the FAA will enforce this. According to the NPRM, 83% of all drones are imported. (Draft p195) Drones are not sold in state-run stores. Do we suppose that the FAA is going to send agents to monitor every point of sale in the country – both brick and mortar and more readily online? How will they even
locate them?

The 83% makes this is a complex port of entry issue, involving some combination of the Department of Commerce and US Customs. Think about the existing manufacturer and retailer inventories, inventory in transit, inventory delayed in customs and so forth. It’s not like a faucet where you just turn the water off.

Especially, and this is the LEO in me talking, when you factor in human nature. Much of the drone culture is defiantly independent and adamantly anti-authoritarian. Except for performance upgrades, in the early going there will be no advantage to having a compliant drone, especially if you are not flying under Part 107. People already have enough problems with their non-compliant drones. Why worry about whether you can take off or have to land? Why let anyone know where you are? Why spend a dime?


I characterize this as “catch me if you can.” Expect both a black market and an aftermarket to keep them flying.


There is another question. Will grounding hundreds of thousands of drones or requiring owners to pay to upgrade them constitute a taking?

A seizure of private property or a substantial deprivation of the right to its free use or enjoyment that is caused by government action and especially by the exercise of eminent domain and for which just compensation to the owner must be given according to the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Might this be grounds for a class action suit?


Just ignore the table on (Draft p190) that shows that DJI has 78% of the commercial market, leaving everybody else to fight for scraps. Nothing to see here.


The NPRM makes it clear that the FAA’s strategy is to put the burden on RID USS providers and the UAS manufacturers. According to their data (Draft p195):

The FAA estimates that potentially as many as 157 U.S. and 324 foreign producers would submit a declaration of compliance for 313 U.S. and 787 foreign models of UAS for FAA acceptance by year 1 or 2 of the analysis period depending on their ability to retrofit.

The catch is that the number of manufacturers that will be able to afford to meet the yet to be defined compliance requirements is much more likely to decrease than to increase. This is ironic given the administration’s desire to establish a domestic UAS manufacturing industry. Or perhaps it offers a way to ensure their success. Which is how Russia ended up with the Skoda instead of a Ford.

The FAA’s rationale is intended to seem straightforward. After all the NPRM is a proposal. That makes it a sales piece. It’s not actually a syllogism but the logic goes like this (Draft p9): If only compliant drones are sold, and if individual construction is stifled and if the existing fleet can be mothballed or retrofitted – then (ergo) the entire fleet will be compliant and the FAA can go back to Congress and say problem solved. Three years seems optimistic, five to ten seemingly works.

Assuming (as we do throughout) that it will take at least one year to issue the rule – so 2021 – it will be 2024 before it is illegal to fly the current fleet. What is law enforcement to do? Does the FAA have a plan to train 750,000 law enforcement officers to distinguish between drones built before a certain date and after? (Much more about this challenge in Travis’ section.)

Another area of concern is the reliance on the Internet. Many of you have probably read that the Department of Interior’s (DOI) UAS program was recently shut down because of security agency concerns about DJI drones sending data back to
the mothership.

I bring this up because the DHS policy,  DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Best Practices for Operating commercial unmanned aircraft systems, which DOI complies with, is crystal clear. On page 1:

Use standalone UAS-associated mobile devices with no external connections, or disable all connections between the Internet and the UAS and UAS-associated mobile devices during operations.

Despite concerns at the highest levels of government and this explicit guidance, the FAA is pinning their hopes on ten third-party RID USS, and dozens if not hundreds of manufacturers from around the world, to deliver secure connections serving millions of drones. Not only can a hacker steal data, they can also upload malware. I get that there are not a lot of options but in light of the vulnerability, more thought is required.

With that for background, let’s get to the main topic.


Except for some use cases, the FAA never addresses what law enforcement needs and how the proposed rule has the flexibility meet those needs.


LE is not a monolithic entity. The NPRM acknowledges that there are 18,000 independent law enforcement agencies. (Draft p114) How will 750,000 sworn officers be trained, not just in using the app but in the increasingly Byzantine quilt of local, state, tribal and federal laws regulating UAS? There is not one word in 319 often redundant pages.

In the laconic words of NUAIR CTO Andy Thurling who has spent time testing RID with local law enforcement:


Moving it from the drone ecosystem to the law enforcement ecosystem has not received the necessary emphasis.


As Travis likes to say, “That’s because the FAA is not a law enforcement agency.”

We have been working on the law enforcement aspects of this article since long before the NPRM was published. Travis brings a deep understanding of law enforcement and security, I’ve added my two cents and we’ve both done a lot of research. We are grateful to the many people who helped us to understand the nuances and details and refine our ideas.

GLOSSARY OF ACRONYMS

RID – Remote ID

LE – law enforcement

LEO – sworn law enforcement officer

PII – personal identifiable information

S# – the unique number assigned to each sUAS – like a traditional N# but different

Here is the link to the Draft version referred to throughout. If you are not familiar with all of the details Table 1: Summary of Major Provisions on (Draft p21) is a fine starting point. A narrative Summary begins on (Draft p11).

All images are licensed from Pixabay for commercial use.


A LE PERSPECTIVE

For more than twenty years I was a law enforcement officer. Maybe that’s why people are constantly trying to convince me that drone-related complaints will just disappear once there is widespread public acceptance. Let me know when
that happens…

Much of my time was spent embedded with state and local law enforcement task forces. The experience provided me with a comprehensive overview of the systems and procedures employed by a wide range of police departments. Since I retired from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), I have worked in physical security and as a CUAS consultant. I spend a fair amount of time talking with the DOJ and DHS, as well as state and local police, about suAS and the issues that the NPRM is intended to address.

Remote ID is a complex issue from an operational point of view. In this part of the article, I will break down the NPRM from the perspective of law enforcement – the men and women on the ground who will depend on RID not just to do their job, but to do it safely.

My intention is to help you make informed comments on the NPRM with respect to the value and applicability of RID to those tasked with responding to drone-related incidents, should you choose to do so.

A QUICK REFRESHER

In June of 2016, as part of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, Congress gave the FAA one year to come up with a Remote ID plan.

SEC. 2202 The FAA, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, the President of RTCA, Inc., and the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, shall convene industry stakeholders to facilitate the development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of unmanned aircraft systems and associated unmanned aircraft.

In January of 2017, the FAA submitted their proposed rule for Operations Over People to OIRA part of the White House Office of Management and Budget (a mandated step in the rulemaking process.) At which point, the security agencies (DHS, DOD and DOJ) said, no, this is absolutely not going forward without
Remote ID.


“We need to know who is up there.” This was the tipping point in the evolution of Remote ID.


Another five months passed until the FAA named 74 people to the UAS Identification and Tracking (UAS ID) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). They met for two days in June and two days in September, then submitted their recommendations to the FAA September 30. On December 19, 2017, the FAA released the Final Report with Appendices.

Along the way, someone came up with the idea of describing Remote ID as an electronic license plate. The sexy explanation was the idea that “If it squawks (transmits) it’s good; if it doesn’t, you might want to kill it.” This binary solution became the constant refrain offered up by the FAA, the security agencies and civilian witnesses during the Congressional hearings leading up to the 2018 FAA Reauthorization.

If one is defending critical infrastructure or a large public venue, especially if there is supporting threat intelligence and pre-approved temporary flight restrictions (TFR); the assumption will almost certainly be that any type of non-compliant aircraft is a threat. And if the target is valuable enough, and the intel is good enough, and the right federal team with legal authority to act is there with the appropriate gear, interdiction will (someday) be used to defeat the threat.

But I and many of my law enforcement friends share the belief that the problem is not in the air but on the ground. From a LE perspective, the electronic license plate is the better analogy because it is descriptive of the real problem, keeping order in a world filled with ever more drones. Drones which, in the course of going about their business, will interact with all matter of people in all kinds of places and situations on the ground.

The day-to-day ‘routine‘ work already involves state and local laws on privacy, peeping toms, drone-related accidents, disturbing the peace (delivery noise anyone?), trespass, posted areas, high crimes and misdemeanors including smuggling, industrial espionage and operating under the influence. Soon we will add stolen deliveries and drone vandalism to the list.

For LE, managing UAS is one more thing to do in a job filled with too many things to do; and not enough resources to do them. The first challenge to RID adoption that the FAA faces is to deliver a useful tool that is easy to use, reliable and readily integrated into the existing LE workflow.

If the FAA is not successful, RID will never be widely utilized.

THE $64,000 QUESTION


The $64,000 question is what does law enforcement need to effectively and efficiently police aircraft and operators?


The process will be very much like conducting a traffic stop – i.e. a direct adaptation of existing procedures. Certainly, the rules governing police behavior and due process will be identical.

The sequence will entail the following steps:

  • Identify the UAS
  • Identify the actual operator (as opposed to the registered owner)
  • Proceed accordingly at the discretion of the officer

Let’s look at how that works in the context of the NPRM.

Identify The UAS Remote ID is predicated on the promise that all that a LEO will have to do is point their phone at the sky to determine if anyone within range is broadcasting an ID. Most likely this will happen because a concerned or annoyed citizen has called 911 to complain – if they have the app, they may even provide the S#. Or a corporate employee sees a drone “where it shouldn’t be.” Or the LEO spots a drone in the course of other activities and has reasons for concern. Or (Draft p11):

Remote identification information provided in near real-time would also assist Federal security partners in threat discrimination—allowing them to identify an operator and make an informed decision regarding the need to take actions to mitigate a perceived security or safety risk.

Per the NPRM, information about the registered aircraft will exist in a registration database maintained by the FAA (Draft p115) :

The FAA envisions it would facilitate near real-time access to the remote identification message elements (paired with certain registration data, when necessary) for accredited and verified law enforcement and Federal security partners … Law enforcement agencies would be able to access remote identification information in near real-time and also access remote identification information maintained by Remote ID USS.

The problem is that the RID number is linked to the registered owner from who the FAA only collects a name and phone number. That person may or may not be the operator. So the next step is to identify the operator.


Remember that for a LEO, it is not about the drone. It is about the operator.


Identify The Operator Identifying the operator depends on finding the operator so that the LEO can talk to them and get their ID including their FAA license and registration. We’ll leave the discussion of whether this has to happen when the drone is still in the air and the operator is “manipulating the flight controls” or it has landed and the LEO has probable cause to subpoena their flight logs for another day. Since the operator can literally be miles away, finding them may not be an easy task.

The ARC recognized this problem and spent a good deal of time on it, writing that (Draft p45):

Currently, the biggest challenge facing public safety officials when responding to matters regarding UAS activity is their inability to locate the operator of a UAS that is causing concern or risk to the safety of the public or the airspace system.  

The proposed solution is (Draft p 297) § 89.310 Minimum performance requirements for standard remote identification unmanned aircraft systems.

(a) Control station location. The location of the control station of the unmanned aircraft system must be generated and encoded into the message elements and must correspond to the location of the person manipulating the flight controls of the unmanned aircraft system.

Have you ever dropped a cell call? Ever lost service after a storm? Ever had
no bars?

When any part of the Internet is down, pilots will still be able to take off. But the FAA and LE will have no ability to monitor UAS operations in the affected area. Remember that the broadcast data will not be aggregated – it’s only available to those who receive it in real time. And that the proposal will allow standard drones to fly if there is no connection – even though if there is a bad connection they will be prevented from taking off. (Really?)

All this, along with the vulnerabilities we’ve discussed, raises the question of how good is the location data? As the number of UAS operations increase, what kind of assurance will there be that the reported position is accurate? This is one of a number of long term “gaps” identified in a white paper by engineering consultancy Hidden Level, Realizing Remote ID.

Here’s another problem. Responding to drone incidents continues to be described using a ‘one complaint, one drone’ paradigm. As I have tried to highlight for several years, someday in the not too distant future, officers are going to be called to respond to incidents where there are multiple drones in the immediate vicinity of the call. In fact, this is already happening at disaster scenes, large public events and wildland fires.

What happens when all of the drones are compliant?


Which one is the bad drone? And who is the bad operator?


The operators could literally be miles apart or on opposite sides of the bayou. Law enforcement does not have the resources to chase them all down. They will need some help. Some indicators. Deciding where to direct their resources will depend on PII.

THE ACHILLES HEEL: PII

The NPRM leaves the LEO holding up their cell phone with very little of the information they are used to having. You may not realize it, but before an officer gets out of their patrol car, he or she has already run the plate and the registered owner. This is a time-tested approach for ensuring officer safety.

Yet there is nothing in the NPRM about how RID data will be integrated with the rest of the data that LE routinely uses. This is a critical point because LEOs are trained to use biographical information about the person they have in front of them. And because things happen fast, their safety depends on having it available in
real-time.

To understand how important these records are, I suggest you read Use and Management ofUse and Management of Criminal History Information: A Comprehensive Report by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. This short snippet from page 18 describes the value of criminal history information to an officer:

“When an officer makes a stop, information about the stopped person’s dangerousness or past violent activity can save the officer’s life.” 

PII is obtained by the LEO through a two-stage electronic interaction. The first interaction is conducted via the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) by the officer or their dispatcher.

When a request is entered into NLETS, it is routed across state systems – for example, an out of state registration check, driver’s information, or criminal history. At the same time, the officer/dispatcher can make a national request for active wants, warrants, sex offender registry or protective orders. These checks are routed via NLETS to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) via the Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) Division of the FBI.


If anyone thinks this is a small task, consider that on July 28, 2016, NCIC set a single-day record when it processed 17,492,427 NCIC transactions.


Each query requires personally identifiable information (PII) such as date of birth (DOB) and/or Social Security Number (SSN). Information that the proposed S# database does not collect. Nor does the current pilot license program.

No one is saying it, but RID will be a whole new database that will have to be built, managed, maintained, updated, supported, routinely audited and paid for. As best as I can tell from the NPRM, the FAA seems to expect the RID USS to foot the bill.

This database will also have to be integrated with the pilot license database. Remember the analogy – vehicle plate, driver’s license.

From the LE perspective, the most useful information that the FAA has is the data used by TSA. Ideally, when the knowledge test is finally published, the recreational pilot’s license database will be integrated with Part 107.

And lest we think the problem is solved just by recognizing it, another major hurdle exists – access to the information. For any organization to get access to the FBI’s NCIC information, they must be able to adhere to CJIS compliance policies and regulations – which are stringent and burdensome, as well as NLETS.

Again, there is nothing in the NPRM about this. I don’t know but I have to question whether third parties like prospective RID USS understand the technical, legal and managerial requirements of this process.

USE OF FORCE

One of the most baffling statements in the entire NPRM (Draft p. 115) is the assertion that RID will provide law enforcement a basis for “understanding use
of force
.”

I do not understand why anyone thinks that RID registration information – a name and a phone number – has anything to do with a use of force decision. As my colleague Ron Leach, a 25 year LE veteran likes to say, “The FAA should stay in their lane.”

The Use-of-Force-Continuum was established by the National Institute of Justice. Every sworn officer in the United States is trained to use it. The continuum serves as a guideline for the appropriate level and application of force against a person as events unfold before them.


Information before the interaction is essential, but on its own registered/not registered can hardly be described as a game-changer.


To me, the FAA’s assertion only makes sense in one context – counter UAS (CUAS). If that’s what they are implying, then I guess you can draw some sort of line to that interdiction premise but as I have discussed before in The Counter Drone Conundrum, it is fraught with use of force issues.

Suffice it to say, determining “intent” was, is, and will continue to be the challenge. That is both the most valuable and the most difficult work that we ask law enforcement to do.

PRIVACY AND THE FOURTH AMENDMENT

On the ground, the officer has ‘eyes on’ the vehicle and the driver or the suspect. In the sky, the officer needs to know who is on the ground – but the Fourth Amendment makes it clear that you can’t just run every drone against law enforcement databases. Registration databases, probably. Criminal databases? This is especially problematic when responding to a citizen’s complaint based on an S#.

As part of developing the NPRM, the FAA conducted a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). (Draft p. 272) It’s quite a list of vulnerabilities in both the legal and the security sense of the word.

The PIA found the NPRM requirements that affect privacy include:

  • the registration of the UAS with the FAA,
  • the transmission of data from the UAS to Remote ID USS,
  • the broadcast of data from standard remote identification UAS to any person capable of receiving broadcasts,
  • the use of PII in the manufacturer’s declaration of compliance,
  • and the use of PII in applications to establish FAA-recognized identification areas for UAS flying.

This is part of a much larger question about privacy. Today we are seeing a similar issue play out with Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) programs which are being successfully challenged in some courts. A couple of recent cases: Court Questions Reliance On ALPRS considers this with regard to the Fourth Amendment. Green v. City & County of San Francisco considers the legality of a further search (detention) of a person without reasonable suspicion and ultimately probable cause.

I have to wonder about the potential constitutional conflicts that may arise if the officer cannot physically identify the actual operator of the drone after establishing reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity? Are they just going to run all the registrations in the immediate area? This goes back to the multiple drone issue discussed previously.

I would also refer you to my guest post, Will The Drone Please Take The Stand, for a discussion of how drone data will be used in court.

In addition, Dawn Zoldi just published RID — Somebody’s Watching Me? in Unmanned Aerial Systems which offers a detailed exploration of the legal issues:

The FAA’s 316-page Notice of Public Rulemaking on the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems only mentions the word “privacy” thirty-three times, including footnotes. However, the Notice profoundly impacts the privacy of various stakeholders.

THE RID ‘LEO’ EDITION V1.x

By now you have probably noticed that the FAA’s assumption is that magically every LEO will have a RID app on their phone. Nothing could be further from the truth. For two reasons.

First, many local law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to outfit their officers with phones – investigators yes, patrolmen often no. Implementation of the NPRM is dependent on officers downloading a “secure” tracking application onto their personal phones that is to be utilized for “official business.”

Officers are fully aware that a cell phone is nothing more than a tracking device. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the recent NYT article, Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy. On top of that, you are talking about mixing private property for public use which means it can be taken into evidence – thorny to say the least.

Secondly, apparently the FAA has no idea how the apps will be built. There is a single footnote (Draft p117) to the effect that:


“The FAA anticipates that in the future, third parties may develop mobile phone applications for law enforcement use.”


It speaks volumes about how the FAA’s continued reliance on ‘performance standards’ influences their thinking. If we need it, someone will build it exactly the way we want it.

At least three apps are going to have to be built, plus, a web portal that integrates all of the RID and LAANC USS data into a real-time searchable and relatable whole. Apparently this work will be done by third parties as a condition of being a
RID USS.

Then comes the expensive part. The app, as well as state and local guidelines for the use of the app will have to be marketed, rolled out and trained. For scale, there are 18,000 independent law enforcement agencies and some 750,000
sworn officers.

Ask yourself this very basic question – where in the NPRM – which is a proposal, not a rule – does the FAA explain how law enforcement agencies will even know that RID exists?

No doubt the FAA will point to LEAP (the FAA’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program) and say that they will handle the rollout and support. Perhaps, but everyone I have ever spoken with who has interacted with LEAP says the same thing – great people but not nearly enough of them.

Today if you search The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) site you will see that there is not a word about Remote ID. The same thing with the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) though last Monday they announced a “…Working group to create a template that governs law enforcement’s use of UAS.

These are the target audiences and end-users for this service. I have never understood why LE leadership has not been more involved – right now there is one LEO on the DAC. Though to be fair, there were 10 on the 74 person ARC. Not sure what happened there but it was three years ago.

Point being that additional engagement will be essential to help law enforcement see the future of responding to incidents and complaints regarding drones, as opposed to just using them as a tool in their investigations.

Association input during development will greatly increase the chance of support during the rollout. That would go a long way to overcoming the shortcomings of the FAA’s proposal.

Because without a sustained effort to engage law enforcement, the RID program will not be adopted. Which means that even though the FAA will have “done its job” filling the sky with compliant aircraft, the people on the ground still won’t be able to identify them, or, more importantly, the operator. Which may or may not please the security agencies driving this bus.

WHO IS THE RECORD KEEPER?

 As I have been hinting, this leads to another complicated – and expensive – question. Who is going to obtain, maintain, manage and disseminate the data? Who is going to manage the interface that will be required between the FAA’s S# database and TECS, NLETS and the FBI’s CJIS? And of course, who is going to pay for it?

Another question is, will there be a TSA vetting process similar to that developed for Part 107 applicants for the new recreational license process? There should be, since based on FAA registration data, it is much more likely that an officer will be responding to an incident involving a recreational pilot than a Part 107 RPIC.

Today, a lot of the problem with careless and clueless operators is that the owner basically gets to decide whether or not to register their recreational aircraft.

On (Draft p21) the NPRM states that:

The owners of small unmanned aircraft registered after the effective date of the final rule would have to comply with the new registration requirements prior to the operation of the unmanned aircraft.


There is no ambiguity in the regulation, but unless it is built into the UAS software there is no mechanism to enforce it either.


Unless the FAA tightens this loophole, people will be able to buy drones at retail or e-tail for the foreseeable future, without any way to ensure that they register them. Assuming that the two-year period ends in 2023, there will be eight years of non-compliant drones in the country.

DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL

In order to make RID a useful tool that can scale over time, there must be a mechanism to register, maintain, update, interface, and disseminate the data to law enforcement. It is the states, not the FAA, that are best positioned to manage this information flow. So, here is my suggestion – and don’t flame me – at least I’m offering one!

It’s called the DMV. That’s right, the Division of Motor Vehicles. In order to fly, a purchaser could be required to go register their drone in the state where they reside. Unlike the FAA, states are already equipped to collect and maintain PII.

The state would charge a fee for registration and send the information to the FAA to determine if the registrant has completed the required sUAS flight course. At the same time TSA would perform a Criminal History Records Check to ensure the registrant does not have any disqualifying offenses or pending issues such as sex offender status or current protective orders for domestic violence, terrorism watch lists et cetera.

It’s a given that the drone manufacturers and the retailers who continue to benefit from the current situation will fight this tooth and nail. That’s the same group that at the 2015 Registration ARC complained that a $5 registration fee would ruin
the industry.

State registration may not be the perfect solution, but at least there is an existing framework, infrastructure and process. It is an approach that LE is familiar with. Plus, it’s not as if the DMVs are going to be overwhelmed initially. sUAS adoption will continue in fits and starts for years to come.

CONCLUSION

The FAA positions RID as an essential building block, but this NPRM feels much more like a piecemeal approach to an extraordinarily complex problem.

We hope that this article has helped you to understand why RID can only accomplish Congress’ goal if it is part of a carefully integrated system that begins at the port of entry, includes point of sale, registration and licensing; and is launched with a broad-based, sustained rollout to the general public and law enforcement.

Here is a summary of the issues that we raised that you might want to consider
for comments.

  • The need for metrics and a timeline for further rulemaking.
  • The need for a secure network solution.
  • The need for an answer as to why the FAA thinks it is a benefit to create yet another class of USS.
  • The need for a better registration solution for aircraft and licensing for operators including PII.
  • The need to close a loophole that will allow hundreds of thousands of additional unregistered drones to be sold.
  • The need for a legally binding privacy statement not just assurances.
  • The need to develop and support a variety of apps.
  • The need to integrate the RID database with the pilots license database.
  • The need to integrate the FAA databases with other law enforcement databases.
  • The need to market the program to law enforcement, existing owners whether they are currently registered or not and the general public.
  • The need for a budget to sustain this effort for 24 months.

In addition, if you search the Draft you will find 40 specific requests for comment. (just search on comment) Many of them are very specific but depending on your background and interests you may be able to contribute.

We encourage you to take the time to make a formal comment. The deadline is March 2 so put it on your calendar and plan ahead. To post a comment click here. In the upper right corner, you will see a green box that says SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT

Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On are here.

best,
ck

Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
chris@dronebusiness.center
follow me @dronewriter

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