What is Remote ID? Everything You Need to Know

RCHobby Lab’s Author: Daniel Henderson
Reviewed by Kristen Ward
Updated on
Reviewed by Kristen Ward

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly called drones, have exploded in popularity over the last decade. What started as a niche hobby has transformed into a massive industry with applications across different sectors.

Drones have proven extremely useful for activities like aerial photography, infrastructure inspection, search and rescue, and recreational flying.

However, the proliferation of drones also comes with some risks in terms of safety and security. Several incidents have occurred over the years involving unauthorized drone flights near airports or over crowded venues.

To address these concerns, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published new regulations establishing Remote Identification (Remote ID) for drones operating in U.S. airspace. This requirement goes into full effect on September 16, 2023.

So what exactly does the remote ID rule entail? What do drone pilots need to do to comply? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know.

Key Dates for Remote ID Compliance

Note: FAA Policy on Remote ID Enforcement
Drone pilots are expected to comply with the September 16, 2023, compliance date for Remote ID. However, the FAA understands that some drone pilots may not be able to comply because of limited availability of broadcast modules and lack of approved FAA-Recognized Identification Areas. In those instances, the FAA will consider all factors in determining whether to take enforcement action through March 16, 2024.

Read the full policy in the Federal Register..

The FAA first announced upcoming Remote ID requirements in December 2019. But there were several delays before the final rule was issued and dates firmed up. Here is a timeline of key events so far:

  • December 2019 – FAA first proposes remote ID requirements for drones in the US.
  • December 2020 – Final rule for remote ID is published after changes based on public feedback.
  • March 2021 – Applicability date when Remote ID rule officially takes legal effect.
  • September 2022 – Original compliance date shifted to allow more time for ecosystem readiness.
  • September 16, 2023Deadline for all drones to comply with remote ID standards.

So at this point, the September 2023 deadline is locked in place by which drones must be broadcasting appropriate remote ID signals to fly legally in US airspace.

There will likely still be amendments and updates to specific technical pieces even beyond that date. But remote ID itself is mandatory for all drones weighing over 0.55 lbs (250 grams) by September 16, 2023.

What is Remote ID for Drones?

Remote ID is essentially a digital license plate for drones. It’s an electronic signal broadcast by the drone that identifies key details to anyone receiving it.

As per the FAA, remote ID provides three major benefits:

  • Enhances safety – Remote ID enables drones to be identified and located in real-time. This allows quicker response if any unsafe flying is observed.
  • Improves security – Remote ID ensures only authorized drones are flying, while detecting any potentially malicious activities.
  • Advances airspace use – The widespread availability of remote ID data will allow better coordination of drone and manned aircraft traffic.

At its most basic level, remote ID continually transmits the following information:

  • UAS ID – A unique identifier for the drone itself. This ties back to the registration number issued by the FAA during drone registration.
  • Location data – The current latitude, longitude, barometric pressure altitude and velocity of the drone during flight.
  • Control station ID – Identifies the location of the remote pilot or control center managing that drone.

Optionally, drones can also broadcast information like serial number, emergency status code, etc. But the UAS ID, location, and control station ID comprise the minimum data required.

With remote ID, third-parties can identify and monitor drones operating nearby using smartphones, websites, or other compatible receivers. Apps and services can tap this data from passing UAS to show pilots maps of drone traffic or other useful information.

Think of it like a license plate that broadcasts location. Surveillance systems, law enforcement, and other aircraft can spot this signal to identify compliant drones.

Why is Remote ID Required?

Remote ID emerged from growing calls to properly regulate recreational and commercial drones.

As the popularity of drones exploded, safety incidents and security concerns rose as well. Remote ID aims to address issues like:

  • Airspace violations – Several occurrences of unauthorized drone flights in restricted or critical areas like airports. These create collision hazards with manned aircraft and disruptions to travel.
  • Privacy complaints – People calling in complaints of drones spying on private property or gathering footage without consent.
  • Security risks – Potential weaponization of drones for malicious activities.
  • Hazardous flying – Reckless drone operations over populated venues, critical infrastructure, or to intentionally harass people.

Remote ID enables quick identification of offending drones so authorities can investigate and hold pilots responsible as needed.

The widespread availability of remote ID data also opens up options for advanced concepts like UAS Traffic Management (UTM). This would be an ecosystem for monitoring drone flights, coordinating routes, and managing airspace usage between drones and manned traffic.

How to Comply with Remote ID Rules?

The FAA defines three main methods for drones to achieve compliance with the remote ID requirements:

1. Standard Remote ID Drones

The most straightforward path is to simply fly a drone model that has remote ID functionality built-in and enabled by default.

Many consumer and commercial drones produced after January 2021 have had remote ID integrated into their design from the factory. A firmware update activates the feature on drones with a compatible hardware platform.

As of remote ID rule applicability in March 2021, manufacturers can produce Standard Remote ID drones that broadcast appropriate data out of the box.

So if you own a drone model that is declared remote ID compliant by the manufacturer, make sure to install the latest firmware updates before September 2023 deadline.

Popular drones like the below should only need a software update to begin transmitting remote ID signals:

  • DJI Mini 3 Pro
  • DJI Mavic 3 Classic
  • DJI Air 2S
  • Autel Robotics EVO II
  • Autel Robotics EVO Nano
  • Ruko F11GIM2
  • Parrot ANAFI Ai

And many more – check the ever-growing FAA Declaration of Compliance list for drones confirmed as broadcasting required remote ID messages.

2. Add-on Remote ID Modules

For existing drones without native remote ID capacity, compatible add-on modules are available to provide the functionality.

These modules contain the electronics, antennas, and firmware needed to broadcast remote ID messages. They interface with non-compliant drones through options like:

  • Micro-USB ports
  • Accessory bays
  • Custom wiring

The drone powers the module and transfers necessary data over this linkage. From there, the modules transmit the UAS ID, location, control station details and other remote ID content.

Multiple FAA-accepted remote ID modules exist like:

  • DroneTag module – $199 standalone that wires into aircraft
  • Radian Aerospace module – $179 connects via USB
  • NERVlab module – €150 self contained add-on

And more. Check the FAA site for the complete list of approved Remote ID broadcast modules you can purchase and connect to become compliant.

Also Read: How to Add Remote ID to FPV Drones?

3. Fly in FAA Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs)

For hobbyists not ready to upgrade to remote ID, FRIAs present another short-term option to keep flying non-compliant models.

FRIAs are defined areas designated by community organizations where drones can operate without meeting remote ID requirements. Both the drone and pilot must remain inside boundary of the FRIA during flight.

Since FRIAs rely on visual line-of-sight rules, drone flights in these zones may face operational restrictions compared to flying remotely. But they represent one of the only ways to legally fly non-broadcasting drones after September 2023.

Examples of eligible community-based organizations who can establish FRIAs include:

  • Model aircraft clubs like the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)
  • Educational institutions
  • Trade groups like the First Person View Freedom Coalition

The FAA provides more details in their FRIA resources section.

So in summary – acquire a remote ID drone, add a module, or restrict flights to FRIAs. Those represent the FAA’s approved methods to keep operating drones beyond September 2023.

Remote ID Rule Exemptions

A few categories of drones still remain exempt from the remote ID requirements even after September 2023 deadline.

Recreational fliers can continue operating these non-compliant models without restrictions:

  • Drones under 0.55 lbs (250 grams) – But must be marked with registration number
  • Drone flights only inside FAA-recognized identification areas
  • Model aircraft within boundaries of AMA flying sites

The FAA also created weight, performance, and operational exemptions for various specialized drones like:

  • Drones purpose built for drone racing and competitions
  • Model aircraft used strictly at home
  • Tethered drones without free flight capability
  • Balloons that qualify as UAS
  • Aircraft designed not to be flown higher than 400 feet AGL

Refer to Section 89.201 of the remote ID mandate for full details on exclusions.

Even these excluded drones may still choose to adopt remote ID functionality. But they can continue operating without it under relevant conditions.

What Happens After the September 2023 Deadline?

By September 16, 2023, remote ID broadcasts will be mandatory for basically all drones in active, untethered flight within U.S. airspace, under 400 feet AGL.

The FAA states they will allow an additional 12 month grace period for compliance. This means officials will first focus on education and awareness if encounters with non-compliant drones after September 2023.

Formal enforcement begins September 2024 when all pilots must fully adhere to Remote ID equipage rules or face civil penalties. From then on, flying drones without remote ID where required is subject to the following actions:

  • Drone confiscation
  • Monetary fines per violation
  • Criminal charges possible for repeated, egregious offenses

Even during the initial grace period, regulations still prohibit operating drones in ways that endanger manned aircraft or people on the ground. Unsafe flights by non-compliant drones can prompt enforcement regardless of the equipage deadline.

How Will the FAA Monitor Remote ID Compliance?

A major question around remote ID is how the authorities will actually monitor UAS broadcasting required data. Will the FAA actively track every single drone flight across U.S. airspace?

The short answer is: no. The FAA does not have the resources for real-time, nationwide monitoring of all remote ID signals as drones take to the skies.

However, the FAA will obtain remote ID data through several channels to ensure accountability:

  • Public UAS Service Suppliers (USS) – Third-party services can collect remote ID messages from passing drones. USS feeds that anonymized location data back to the FAA to analyse traffic density, congestion, etc. in aggregate.
  • Remote ID broadcast receivers – The FAA and law enforcement utilize ground-based sensors or mobile units to identify non-compliant UAS operations in a given area.
  • Public reports – Concerned citizens can file complaints about drones behaving hazardously or apparently lacking remote ID. The FAA follows up on credible cases.
  • Subpoenas – During investigations of unauthorized flights or accidents, the FAA or NTSB can subpoena remote ID records from nearby USS networks to identify offending aircraft.

So the main model is issue-driven monitoring and evidence gathering rather than exhaustive tracking of every single drone.

Public tips, erratic data, incidents, or petitions from federal agencies prompt the FAA to dig deeper into remote ID logs for specifics instead of watching the whole sky at once.

How Law Enforcement Uses Remote ID?

With drones becoming so ubiquitous across public and commercial applications, local police must also prepare to respond to issues posed by this growing segment of airspace users.

Law enforcement agencies leverage remote ID for identifying potentially:

  • Suspicious activity – Drones suspiciously circling over critical sites or events may warrant alerts.
  • Regulation violations – Flying without remote ID after September 2023 deadline.
  • Hazardous operations – Endangering manned aircraft or public safety.
  • Criminal acts – Weaponizing drones for violence or terror purposes.

However, the tools and protocols available to law enforcement for tapping remote ID data remains relatively undefined.

The FAA confirmed that no standard app or mandatory equipment exists yet for police to detect remote ID compliance. Until official guidance emerges, local departments are still determining optimal setups independently.

But in general, law enforcement can gather remote ID signals through:

  • Smartphone apps – Specialized software like AirGuard designed for public safety UAS monitoring.
  • Handheld receivers – Dedicated Bluetooth and WiFi sensors detect nearby broadcasting drones.
  • Installed sensors – Permanent directional antennas to cover critical buildings/venues and passively aggregate remote ID messages.

Many drone investigations will still rely on eyewitnesses filing reports of misbehaving aircraft. Officers then travel to site with portable equipment to scan surroundings for remote ID signals pinpointing pilots or models.

Over time, standardized practices should crystallize for agencies to tap remote ID data. But flexibility remains while the technology and policies continue progressing.

Remote ID Privacy Concerns

Amid the safety and security debates around remote ID, privacy represents another significant area needing attention.

Knowing the position of every drone at all times enables tracking pilots as well as aircraft. This raises common concerns like:

  • Pilot harassment – Bad actors abusing remote ID data to identify and target drone operators.
  • Location tracking – Fears of persistent surveillance, logging of flight histories and pilot routines.
  • Data misuse – Personal info stripped from remote ID messages getting used for marketing or discrimination.

However, the FAA incorporated certain privacy protections within the Remote ID rules:

  • Limited broadcast range – The remote ID signal only transmits a few miles locally over WiFi or Bluetooth. UAS data is not centrally aggregated into one nationwide monitoring network.
  • Anonymized data – USS must strip personally identifiable details before feeding FAA airspace usage statistics and patterns in aggregate.
  • Secure connections – Encrypted data transmission with verification measures protect against signal interception or spoofing.

So remote ID itself should not enable tracking every drone’s take-off point to a specific house address for example. Location info stays generalized to a radius of 0.6 miles per broadcast.

It provides situational awareness that aircraft are operating nearby rather than pinpointing precise pilot addresses without additional investigation.

While privacy risks associated with remote ID usage still warrant more analysis, the system focuses more on accountability than constant monitoring.

Remote ID and Recreational Drone Flying

The upcoming remote ID shift understandably worried many hobby drone pilots used to casually flying recreation models bought off the shelf.

Adding complexity like FAA registration or equipage mandates felt imposing compared to the low barriers with toy-grade quads. But the reality should not detrimentally impact most recreational fliers.

Here are main points to know about remote ID for hobby droning:

Pre-built drones will integrate technology seamlessly – Established consumer drone makers like DJI already equip models with remote ID. Just buy the latest recreational drones available and stay updated through firmware.

DIY drones get more flexibility – Open source flight controller firmware like ArduPilot enables developers to load custom remote ID solutions. Stay within FCC rules for transmission power and data integrity.

Sub-250 gram drones exempt – The lightest models like tiny whoops face no mandate yet. Stick to recreational areas during casual flying without worrying about compliance.

FRIAs allow legacy gear – Even heavier outdated drones keep operating freely within limits of designated no-fly zones.

Follow best practices – As with current laws, avoid hazards regardless of mandates. Don’t fly near airports or over crowds, respect others privacy, keep within line of sight, etc for safe and responsible hobby droning.

So the vast majority of casual drone pilots need not overly stress about remote ID changes. Simply opting for newer ready-to-fly platforms keeps the hobby accessible going forward.

Will Remote ID Achieve Its Goals?

With all the complexity and costs associated with implementing an entire remote ID ecosystem, one must wonder – will it work as intended?

Can remote ID realistically enhance drone safety and accountability with current technological limits?

Here are some key benefits and limitations to consider at this stage:

Pros

  • Quickly identify legally flying drones during incidents and investigations
  • Encourage use of reputable commercial operators through accountability
  • Enable concepts like unmanned traffic management (UTM) with widespread location data
  • Curb dangerous flights through improved incident reporting channels

Cons

  • Still unable to pinpoint exact offending drone pilots hiding far out of broadcast range
  • Technically advanced bad actors can hack modules to display spoof signals
  • Casual hobby drone usage may face declines from increased regulatory burdens
  • Overall effectiveness relies on mass adoption reaching critical mass

In essence, remote ID should dissuade reckless droning through increased transparency measures. But deliberate abuse can still circumvent the rules to an extent until enforcement entities deploy sophisticated detection networks.

Widespread compliance drives maximum benefits – but potentially at the cost of overburdening recreational fliers with barriers.

So striking the right balance remains critical as regulations advance and technology iterates.

Final Thought

Remote ID implementation faces its share of challenges across technology readiness, privacy concerns, recreational community impacts, enforcement scalability, and more.

Yet the regulations reflect necessary steps towards building a more unified framework for managing drones safely and responsibly across uncontrolled low-altitude airspace.

The ecosystem needs time to mature. But the foundations now exist for remote ID services to collect data that proves essential for analysis of congestion hotspots, traffic patterns, and hazard trends.

What seems invasive today may one day enable innovations like drone highways, autonomous cargo delivery networks, and other concepts not yet possible.

For now, recreational fliers feel the biggest transition pains in keeping legacy models airborne. Commercial pilots also weigh investments in upgraded aircraft or modules. But embracing remote ID equips us for the future trajectory of drone applications. It paves the way for integration with manned aviation through unmanned traffic management (UTM).

So rather than dreading remote ID as a nuisance, aviators should recognize the possibilities it unlocks for collaborative and safe access across all of national airspace.

Stay tuned for more coverage of remote ID updates and UAS industry perspectives here on the blog. We aim to keep serving as your top resource for all things drones!

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Written By Daniel Henderson

My name is Daniel Henderson and I'm an avid FPV pilot and videographer. I've been flying quadcopters for over 5 years and have tried just about every drone and FPV product on the market. When not flying quads, you can find me mountain biking, snowboarding, or planning my next travel adventure.

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