Drones are growing up. A decade ago, flying a drone was just a fun hobby that drew curious stares; today, drones are everywhere, doing important and even life-saving work as well as providing a creative outlet for fun, photogenic flights. As drones became more common, governments around the world have developed rules to encourage safe and productive drone flights while protecting airplanes and helicopters in the air as well as people and property on the ground. Now, a big part of the new era of drone regulation is about to take effect in the United States – Remote Identification.Remote ID creates a common and consistent way for authorities to monitor airborne drones and identify who is flying them. Similar to a car license plate, this new method of aerial accountability will make the skies safer, improve public acceptance of drones, and open up new possibilities for drone pilots to routinely fly in ways that have until now been restricted for safety and security reasons – like flying at night or directly over people. On April 21, 2021, new Remote ID rules from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will take effect in the U.S; similar Remote ID requirements are also coming into effect in Europe this year.
There’s no immediate impact on you as a DJI drone pilot. Although the “effective date” is April 21, the FAA’s Remote ID requirements will be implemented over the next three years, and complying with them will likely be as simple as updating your drone software with a free upgrade. We hope this simple guide to the FAA’s Remote ID rules will help answer any questions you have.
What is Remote ID?
Think of Remote ID as an electronic license plate system for drones, allowing authorities to identify who is flying them. A physical license plate wouldn’t be much use on a small airborne drone, so Remote ID sends license plate information via radio signals to receivers on the ground.
The U.S. government has prioritized creating Remote ID since 2016, when security agencies made clear they would not support allowing drones to fly more complicated missions in more places without a way to identify who was flying them. The FAA worked with stakeholders across the drone world to learn about potential solutions to this challenge and first proposed rules in late 2019, then revised them a year later based on more than 53,000 comments from interested people and organizations. The final rules reflect significant input from people who fly drones for fun and for work, from law enforcement organizations that are called on to respond to drone operations, from drone industry groups, and from many others.
What Do I Have to Do?
Nothing, for now. Existing drones won’t have to transmit Remote ID signals until September 2023. We anticipate many of the most commonly used DJI drones will be able to comply by then through a free software update. DJI’s newest drones are being designed and built with these future Remote ID requirements in mind. DJI will provide more information about how to comply with the rules as the mandate gets closer, but in the meantime, keep buying and flying drones the same way you always have. Just make sure you always fly safely and responsibly, following all applicable laws and regulations in your jurisdiction. You can always visit dji.com/flysafe to review our guidance about staying safe in the air.
When Will Remote ID Become Mandatory?
The deadline for new products that are designed with Remote ID functionality to perform Remote ID will be September 2022. At that point, you can expect drones to be available on the market that have Remote ID built in. The deadline for all drones to transmit Remote ID signals during flight is one year later, in September 2023. There are some exceptions – recreational drones that weigh less than 0.55 pounds, or are flown in special areas designated by the FAA, won’t have to comply. This careful phase-in period gives time for the drone industry to develop standards for the Remote ID radio broadcast, and for the FAA to confirm that these methods comply with the rules.
How Will Remote ID Work?
All drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds (about 250 grams) will have to broadcast a signal that includes their position and altitude as well as their serial number. The serial number will be associated with your FAA registration information in the FAA’s system, which means that no personal information will be broadcast by the Remote ID function. Instead, authorized officials who obtain the serial number will be able to look up owner information in the FAA’s system, similar to how authorized agencies check vehicle license plate owner information.
The rules say this information must be sent using a radio protocol that can be received by a common handheld receiver, such as a smartphone or tablet device. Most likely, that means drones will send a Bluetooth or WiFi signal that can be received by a smartphone. (Older drones that don’t have this capability, as well as homebuilt drones, can use an add-on module to send Remote ID information.)
The final version of the Remote ID rule does not require drones to connect to a mobile network, pay a monthly subscription fee, or store flight data in a government database, as the original FAA proposal envisioned. Many stakeholders have noted that the FAA’s final rule is vastly improved from the original proposal in terms of cost, burden, and complexity.
Which DJI Drones Will Comply with Remote ID?
New drones introduced to the market after September 2022 that are designed to comply with Remote ID must include the FAA’s approved Remote ID technology, and DJI of course plans for models released after that time to have Remote ID built in. All drones that are flown outdoors, unless exempt, must perform Remote ID by one year later, in September 2023, and DJI expects many of our most commonly used drones to be able to comply through a simple and free software update. It’s too early to say exactly which existing DJI drones will be able to be updated this way, however, because the technical standards for Remote ID haven’t been finalized and approved by the FAA. Once they are, we can evaluate whether the radio hardware of each model can meet the standard and begin our plans to update specific models.
Our goal will remain to make Remote ID as easy to comply with as possible. DJI will likely roll out updates across our product lines in phases, taking into account their popularity and where they are in their lifecycle as the FAA deadline approaches in 2023. Since the FAA will allow drone pilots to satisfy Remote ID requirements with a separate add-on module, we anticipate every DJI drone – even the oldest ones, long out of production – will have a pathway to compliance for anyone still operating them.
Safety has always been DJI’s most important goal. We pioneered safety measures like geofencing, safety knowledge testing for drone pilots, and even a form of Remote ID called AeroScope long before any government required them. We also have committed to installing ADS-B receivers into each new model that weighs above 250 grams, to enhance drone pilot awareness of nearby air traffic, in an effort to reduce the likelihood of collision. The FAA’s new Remote ID rules will improve safety and security, promote social acceptance of the technology we all love, and open more opportunities for drone flights, while minimizing any disruption to DJI drone pilots like you. We look forward to facilitating compliance with these new requirements with a minimum of disruption to your use of our products.
An earlier version of this post indicated compliance deadlines in October of 2022 and 2023, on the basis of FAA's indication that compliance would be required 18 months and 30 months after the Effective Date. Although the Effective Date was delayed from March 2021 to April 2021, it appears that FAA will keep the original September deadlines. DJI will update its customers as the specific compliance dates approach.