Vigilant Aerospace Systems’ CEO Kraettli Epperson recently presented a webinar titled “Remote ID for Commercial UAS: What is it, How does it work, and Why does it matter?”
“Remote ID matters, first and foremost, as a national security and public safety issue. The idea behind Remote ID as a policy in particular is that would provide live drone tracking so that Public Safety officials can know that a drone is in a particular location, identify who’s operating that drone if they need to identify an operator in an emergency.”
– Kraettli Epperson, CEO, Vigilant Aerospace Systems
In the half-hour webinar, hosted by the UAS Cluster Initiative, Epperson addressed several essential questions on remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems, including:
- What is Remote ID?
- Why does Remote ID matter to commercial drone operators?
- What is the current status of Remote ID regulations and likely technical industry requirements?
- What will the adoption of Remote ID technology mean for the future development of the industry?
For those who were unable to attend, the UAS Cluster Initiative has graciously made a recording of this webinar available online.
Watch the full webinar presentation (28 minutes & 15 seconds):
Remote ID for Commercial UAS – What is it, How does it work, & Why does it matter?
From the video:
Welcome to the UAS Cluster Initiative webinar series. My name is Amanda Radovic. I’m the Program Manager for the UAS Cluster Initiative.
On our screen is our speaker today, Kraettli Epperson. Today’s topic is Remote ID. What is it? Why is it important?
So, we’re going to take about a half an hour today to explore this important topic that has become especially relevant in UAS today.
Our speaker today is an expert in the field. Kraettli Epperson is the CEO and founder of Vigilant Aerospace Systems. They provide airspace management and autonomous detect-and-avoid software for unmanned aircraft based on a patent exclusively licensed from NASA.
Mr. Epperson has a 20-year career as a serial entrepreneur and investor in technology startups in both the US and Europe. He’s a frequent expert speaker at major UAS industry conferences such as InterDrone , Xponential, the UAS Summit and Expo and more addressing topics such as unmanned aircraft detect-and-avoid and UAS flight safety and airspace management systems for commercial operators, fleet managers, and unmanned airfields.
Kraettli is also the co-author, with NASA Sr. Research Engineer Ricardo Arteaga, of multiple industry research papers on autonomous systems and is also an FAA certified Part 107 remote pilot.
As we get started this will be a brief 30-minute webinar to introduce you to Remote ID and Kraettli, with that, we welcome you and appreciate you sharing this topic with us today and are interested in learning more about why Remote ID is so important today.
“The reason that Remote ID is so very important is that it allows a de-escalation of that situation quickly by making a phone call rather than trying to, for example, disable a #drone remotely, which can be difficult & dangerous.”
– Kraettli Epperson
Kraettli: I really appreciate the gracious introduction Amanda. That gives everybody a good background. I’m Kraettli Epperson. I’m going to be talking very briefly about Remote ID for commercial unmanned aircraft systems. What is it? How does it work, and why does it matter?
Just to give a little bit of background to start with. Our company Vigilant Aerospace Systems provides automatic detect-and-avoid systems and airspace management systems both for drones and for droneports or fleets, fixed locations or mobile locations, that are enabling advanced unmanned aircraft operations. This is all based on a NASA patent and we do work closely with NASA Armstrong out in California.
We are headquartered in Oklahoma City. My name is Kraettli Epperson. I’m a software entrepreneur. I’m a Part 107 operator and also a member of the ASTM F38 committee, which is a national and international committee that is helping to write standards right now for the operation of unmanned aircraft. That’ll be important as I talk about some of the progress of Remote ID in the industry today.
I’ve also served on the NASA UTM sense-and-avoid/detection-avoid working group, which has been a great way to be sure that we’re involved and aware of the development of all of the protocols around UTM, particularly for deconfliction.
Here’s a couple of photos. The one at the bottom is probably of the most interest, which is what the display screen looks like when you use our software.
What is Remote ID?
[03:21] Remote ID when we use that term is both a regulation and a technology. As a technical function, Remote ID is the ability to radio broadcast or update, via a network connection, the flight location of a particular drone to a central database, server or system that allows that drone to be tracked and allows the ID and the owner or operator of that drone to be known.
At a really basic level, that’s the technical function and what it provides really is the idea of a license plate for unmanned aircraft and I’ll talk a little bit about why that’s so important.
As a regulation, when we say Remote ID as a regulation, it’s a regulatory requirement and a process by which law enforcement or Public Safety or other authorized personnel can quickly identify the registered operator of a particular unmanned aircraft. It might also include other information about the mission, payload, or other things about that particular aircraft. But, when we say Remote ID, those are the really fundamental things that we’re talking about.
Why does Remote ID matter?
[04:26] Remote ID matters, first and foremost, as a national security and public safety issue. The idea behind Remote ID as a policy in particular is that would provide live drone tracking so that Public Safety officials can know that a drone is in a particular location, identify who’s operating that drone if they need to identify an operator in an emergency. It also provides a disincentive for bad behavior and the misuse of drones with the flying of drones in places where they are not allowed or in areas in which it might create a public hazard or danger.
The regulators understand and I think most of the industry understands that most drone operators, if they do get into trouble; if they do fly somewhere that they’re not supposed to – over an event for example – it’s usually because they are unaware and it’s not because they’re operating maliciously. That’s the reason that Remote ID is so very important.
Remote ID allows a de-escalation of that situation quickly by making a phone call rather than trying to, for example, disable a drone remotely, which can be difficult and dangerous.
Additionally, for national security public safety, it does allow for the much faster identification of drones that might be malicious drones; that are not using any sort of Remote ID solution to provide that license plate. It’s like having a car that has painted over its license plate that immediately causes concern if it’s flying somewhere it’s not supposed to be.
A couple of photos in this slide here. The one at the bottom is a pretty famous photo. It’s the crashed drone onto the White House lawn from a couple of years ago. A situation in which being able to track that drone would have been really helpful.
The one on the right is at a soccer game last year, I believe, in Sussex in which a drone flying over the stadium caused a delay of play for about ten minutes while they tried to figure out on how to get rid of that drone and whether it was a danger to the players or the fans. This is this is a very real issue.
In addition, drone Remote ID is really important for commercial operators because it is an important gateway to what the FAA calls advanced operations. The things that are typically cited as being important will become more possible. The FAA will have the ability to regulate and manage would-be flights over people especially events so that authorized aircraft that have the right kind of safety can fly over events and other aircraft can be quickly identified and a phone call can be made so that those drones will leave the area.
Protection of critical infrastructure. Power plants and other things like that are often cited as places where you don’t want drones and the FAA wants to be able to know where those drones are, identify them, and ask them to leave.
Beyond visual line-of-sight operations. Critical when you cannot readily identify the operator of a drone Remote ID will allow that to be conducted safely and it will be something that the FAA feels that they can regulate once Remote ID has a solution.
Some counter drone strategies are enabled by Remote ID, so that a drone can be identified and then some sort of mitigation – usually a phone call first and then something else. The other thing the Remote ID is expected to enable are detect-and-avoid solutions, so that you can know about the drones around you.
Drones eventually may be able to be visible to air traffic control through a Remote ID solution.
Ultimately, what that really leads into is unmanned traffic management, which is a system and a scheme that NASA has been developing and is handing over to the FAA to provide for low-level commercial drones – usually below 400 feet as a part of a Part 107 operation to be part of an automated air traffic management system. This is really important for Remote ID.
Finally, this is something that was said just a few days ago by the CEO of LAX Airport: “Since April 2016 LAX has documented 205 reports of drone activity near the airport.” Of course, we all know maybe not every one of those was a drone but, even if half of them were drones, it’s still troubling. But she reported: “… but was only able to identify and contact the operator of the drone in one instance.”
This is a great example of why Remote ID would be very helpful to quickly mitigate and clear up these situations. This is real practical experience with this problem.
History and Status of Remote ID
[09:10] Okay. I’m going to go over the history and status of Remote ID. Remote ID is a hot topic right now because it is seen as this gateway to so many other things that we would like to be doing with commercial unmanned aircraft. We’ve had a lot of activity just in the last couple of months.
Before that, starting in 2017, after Part 107 had been published, the FAA began thinking about this and published a report on some of their initial recommendations. They then put out, in late 2018, a request for information to industry about potential Remote ID solutions. Some of the things I’m going to show you next will emerge from that.
Just recently, in the last couple of months on September 11th, ASTM published their Remote ID standard. They put it out to ballot within the ASTM F38 committee. That’s important because that’s a standard that airspace regulators are likely to reference and likely to use it either as an example or otherwise ask unmanned aircraft operators to follow that standard. That is in balloting now and should close in the next month or so.
There may of course be revisions to that. It’s currently private. It’s just within the committee. Eventually it would be published as a standard and will be available for regulators to use. I’m very excited about that.
I was not on the working group on that one but, as a member of the committee do review that and do vote on that.
Also, on September 12, the FAA sent a notice of public rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House. That is the initial step and everyone’s excited about that.
For an actual rulemaking process it has to be reviewed first. Usually, that review takes on average about 53 days. So, it’s expected to come back to the FAA. There may be revisions required which will extend that time. The FAA says that around December 20th they think that that may be published. That could certainly move. But, they think that that NPRM will come out publicly. That’s a very important step towards an actual regulation.
The other thing that happened just a few days ago here in October is that the drone Advisory Committee, the DAC, which is made up of industry leaders, made several recommendations around Remote ID. One of them is they recommended the ASTM F38 standard for Remote ID. It’s great that they’re publicizing that, making it clear to the public that that’ll be something that they’re going to look at.
Voluntary compliance with that Remote ID standard or a similar standard with incentives is something that they recommended to the FAA. They recommended that the FAA begins to provide incentives now between the time that a public standard is published and an actual regulation comes into place for early adopters to begin to use that Remote ID standard to add to their aircraft methods of compliance.
The other thing they recommended was that the FAA, as soon as possible, go ahead and publish what’s called a MOPS, which is a minimal operational performance standard, around Remote ID. The FAA publishes a lot of those and that becomes an official regulatory document.
That notice of public rulemaking will come out as soon as OMB is done with it and the FAA has made any revisions. That’s the point which the public can really begin to see in detail what the FAA is thinking about this. Hopefully, after that process has been completed and there’s been public comment, in 2020 or maybe 2021, the FAA will be in a position to publish a new regulation about the use of Remote ID with unmanned aircraft.
That that’s the current status as far as we know.
Basic Concept of Operations
[13:00] This is a diagram I’ll go through very quickly and then I’ve got a little bit more detailed diagram. This came from the FAA’s RFI document. It is an outline of both a way to do networked Remote ID, which is one of a couple of methods of compliance. But, it also forms the backbone of an unmanned traffic management system, which the FAA would use to help to manage low-level unmanned aircraft.
You have on the left the operators these are the individual pilots or the companies and airspace managers involved with companies performing commercial flights.
In the middle you have your software providers and your unmanned service suppliers who are running the backbone servers that allow the individual pilots to communicate upwards.
Those suppliers are expected to talk with each other in this scheme and provide information about where aircraft are in relation to each other.
They would also talk upwards to an FAA server to allow the FAA, as a part of either air traffic control, safety operations, or other things to know the location of an aircraft that is being updated through a piece of software talking to a cloud server and communicating overall with other aircraft.
ASTM F38 Remote ID and Tracking Standard
[14:14] This is the diagram that has been published as part of the discussion of the ASTM standards and it provides a little more detail. At the top here we have one way to comply, which is to actually have a broadcast on a radio on the unmanned aircraft. This would be currently in the standard Bluetooth 4 or 5, or Wi-Fi that would talk to a user who has an app and an appropriate receiver on the right-hand side. We’ll talk about that a little more.
The other way that aircraft and operators could comply with a Remote ID standard and let everyone know where their aircraft is, what the ID is, and then, for authorized personnel, allow them to contact the operator would be using a network connection. You would have software, often an app on a phone or a tablet or otherwise on a laptop or computer, that you’re using to operate your unmanned aircraft which would be updating into a connected service that would then ultimately make available the information to authorized public safety personnel, if needed.
Then finally at the bottom of your non-equipped network participant would be for example model aircraft or others who are in a situation, but they do not have a connected app that allows them to do live updates. However, they could otherwise register through a web portal, for example, that they will be flying in an area at a particular time.
There’s really three methods of compliance here and ultimately the idea is that this information can be shared between software service providers who are enabling those flights and then shared with a central server kind of a backbone that allows the FAA to share with Public Safety and law enforcement the particular identity and operator of a particular drone.
Function Basics of Remote ID
[16:03] We talked a little bit about functional basics usually this is going to be provided by an unmanned service supplier. So, that software vendor that is providing drone enabling software. That’s really helping with that commercial operation. It’s likely to be mostly automatic. It’s likely to be on a mobile app, or if not automatic and on a mobile app then on a web portal. It will probably be handled in the background by the software it could be manual if necessary and there may be some differentiation. One of the suggestions is that in certain airspaces it will have to be automatic. In other airspaces that are less sensitive it might be a manual process.
There may be some differentiation in how you comply based on where you need to fly and what the sensitivity and safety concerns are for that area. It will require an FAA web service or a USS interchange of some kind and there are companies like Google Wing and Amazon that are working on those interchanges already. It will provide data sharing to that central database, so that can be provided when needed to Public Safety.
The connection methods being discussed include Bluetooth 4 or 5, Wi-Fi, or network connection.
[17:13] As I’m sure you can imagine, there are a lot of existing open questions about this both as an emerging standard and a technical standard and as a regulation. I’ll go through some of those really quickly here and a lot of these don’t have answers yet.
The first one is obviously broadcast versus network. Is network registration reliable and secure enough? Particularly if you’re providing live updates, does it require a continuous cellular data connection? For example, obviously, it would if you’re really going to provide live networks. Is manual registration via a web portal a good idea?
In what spaces would that make sense and in what airspaces would it not? Broadcast and RF standards have been discussed extensively. There are range limitations on the types of radios that have been suggested.
What’s the required range for this to be effective? And, of course, how expensive is it to add this? Is it practical? Is it something that there will be different scales of compliance that would be appropriate for very small drones versus larger drones that might be doing thing like delivery.
Can Remote ID be used for air safety and detect-and-avoid? Obviously, it’s intended primarily as an identification and really a license plate style of solution. But, because it is continuously broadcasting, it can be used for detect-and-avoid to be able to identify an aircraft particularly of course drones that are not allowed otherwise to broadcast using an aircraft transponder – like an an ADS-B transponder, which small unmanned Part 107 aircraft are not allowed to do. Should it be used for that? Can it be used for that?
And then, obviously, operator privacy concerns. Data access issues. Who gets access to the registration data? When do they get access? What purposes are authorized? What would trigger a query into this database? What sort of Public Safety emergency would allow the triggering of access to that information in the field by someone who’s got to make a decision potentially on the spot?
Those are questions that are all still very much in discussion right now and as the FAA comes out with an actual regulation some of those may be answered.
Incentives for Voluntary Compliance
[19:24] I mentioned earlier that the FAA and others have discussed the idea of having early adopters get some incentives to go ahead and adopt. A little bit like transponder incentives have been put in place by the FAA mostly in the form of rebates. Similar discussions are happening around Remote ID with the expectation that there will be a delay between a viable standard and some viable technologies coming to market and an actual regulation being published.
Some of those incentives I have up here. I’ll just mention a couple.
Contract preference – particularly for federal contracts. Service providers flying drones for federal contracts that are meeting higher level of safety might have a preference.
Waiver preferences. That’s pretty obvious and straightforward. It might be that getting a beyond visual line-of-sight waiver will be very much preferred that that service provider have a Remote ID solution when they apply for that waiver.
Some other things like that that can begin to allow early adopters to see an incentive to go ahead and adopt this technology.
Takeaways and Future Steps
[20:30] Some takeaways and some future steps going on with this technology and then we’ll have just a few minutes in which I’ll try and address questions.
Remote ID is really critical to the future of the commercial UAS industry. It is an important stepping-stone into a lot of the advanced operations and is an extremely positive thing.
The current progress that we’ve seen over the last several months is very positive for the industry because it is beginning to look like we’re going to have a standard and we’re going to have a regulation in a period of time that we can begin to predict.
There’s likely multiple compliance methods. I think that’s important to keep in mind.
Hopefully there will be compliance methods that are appropriate for very small unmanned aircraft all the way up to much larger unmanned aircraft that can carry the equipment to broadcast and to continuously update into a network automatically their own information.
It’s expected that a lot of this will primarily be provided through a software provider who specializes in software for commercial unmanned operations and it will be a part of the suite of services that will just be provided and is a pathway to providing a full unmanned traffic management system for the United States. That’s also exciting.
It’s really a gateway to all future regulations and advanced operations. There is likely to be a period of voluntary compliance. That is I think of special interest to early adopters.
You know, if you’re on this call this is obviously a topic that you’re interested in and so that should be exciting.
It’s possible that the FAA will come out with a regulation and maybe a MOPS within 12 to 24 months and that’s certainly what the industry is hoping for.
What is being recommend by groups like the DAC and the ASTM F38 standard is beginning to potentially allow. Very excited about all of that.
Questions & Answers
I’m going to take a few minutes. I believe we have just a few minutes left for questions and answers. I’ve provided some information down here at the bottom of the page if you would like to send me an email with a question that I’m not able to answer on this call.
Also, we should be able to make these slides available if you contact us, or obviously, you can contact the UAS Cluster Initiative.
We really appreciate the opportunity to have done this presentation today and all the support that we get from Amanda and Harve and Josh and everyone at the UAS Cluster Initiative.
I’m going to jump over here into some of our questions.
[23:18] Question 1: Is the ID for the drones going to be fixed or assignable at the time of the flight?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t know the answer to it. I expect it will be fixed because it will have to be part of a registration that is kept as a part of the registration of the drone and it will be tied back to that registration. It’s likely it will be fixed, but it doesn’t it doesn’t mean that there might not be some way to change it at the time of registration. That’s a detail in the standard that maybe there’ll be something about that in there.
[24:05] Question 2: What’s the cost to Part 107 operators for Remote ID?
That’s a very good question and given where the industry is today it’s impossible to know exactly what the cost will be. I do know that there’s been an enormous amount of discussion about that in the industry and making sure that the cost is something that’s economically viable.
There’s no guarantees. It is an industry provided solution. But, for Part 107 operators who are already using an app or a piece of software to manage their unmanned aircraft and have some sort of connection up to a network – usually through a cellular connection. This is expected to be a part of that process.
If you look at the prototypes that people are announcing and the type of software work that’s being done, there’s definitely a possibility that it will simply be built into your app. Whether you will be charged by your app provider to have that as an additional service is up to the provider.
I do hope that there will be competition which will push that price down so that this will be something that everyone will be incentivized to provide as a part of the solution in order to be competitive and not push you to a competing product.
So, I think there’s as long as that network solution remains part of the picture and the likely regulation, I think that there is a strong possibility.
[25:32] Question 3: What consideration is taken regarding interruptions of control of the UAS in the air after identifying that the drone is threatening?
That is more of a drone beyond visual line-of-sight regulation question than a Remote ID question.
Remote ID is not expected to mitigate an out-of-control drone for example. But, if the drone is broadcasting its location continuously, it does help in a fly away drone or a lost-link situation because then more individuals in aircraft or on the ground will be able to identify that there’s a drone there and be able to track it. Even if it’s in a lost-link condition. So, that’s not something that this standard and this technology by itself will mitigate, but it will help to reduce risk in the case of a loss of control. That’s my understanding of how many of these solutions would work.
That gets into larger questions., like what’s required for beyond visual line-of-sight? This often has to do with equipage, reliability, potentially certified parts, and all kinds of things that are being discussed outside the Remote ID question.
[26:51] Question 4: Does Remote ID for UAV work like a Mode C transponder in an airplane?
I think there is a little bit of analogy there. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have been suggested as ways that commonly law enforcement on the ground could very quickly receive that signal.
There are also other types of dedicated broadcasts that might be created and used just for unmanned aircraft identification. I know of some vendors who are already developing and promoting some of their own standards. You would have a receiver from them and be able to receive a longer-range signal than you might get with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which is obviously one of the big concerns with those two technologies.
It would not surprise me if there are revisions to the standards and revisions to the regulations over time that do recognize specialized radio technologies that have much wider range and better coverage. I think that’s one of the major things that everybody is thinking about as they look at these regulations.
So, the answer is yes. It should work like a transponder. I do think that there’s going to have to be new technologies that become standardized and commonly accepted by industry for that to happen.
Thank you all very much for your time and thank the UAS Cluster Initiative again for the opportunity to make this presentation.
Amanda: Thank you very much Kraettli. We appreciate it.
- FAA UAS Remote Identification Page – FAA.gov
- UAS Identification and Tracking (UAS ID) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) Final Report – September 30, 2017 [PDF]
- Drone Advisory Committee – October 17, 2019 Recommendations [PDF]
- ASTM WK65041 – New Standard for UAS Remote ID and Tracking (Placeholder)
Quick links – “Jump to” video section (links open in different tab – times denote section start):
- 03:21 – What is Remote ID?
- 04:26 – Why does Remote ID matter?
- 09:10 – History and Status of Remote ID
- 13:00 – Basic Concept of Operations
- 14:14 – ASTM F38 Remote ID and Tracking Standard
- 16:03 – Function Basics of Remote ID
- 17:13 – Current Challenges
- 19:24 – Incentives for Voluntary Compliance
- 20:30 – Takeaways and Future Steps
- 23:18 – Q&A – Question: Is the ID for the drones going to fixed or assignable at the time of the flight?
- 24:05 – Q&A – Question: What is the cost to Part 107 operators for Remote ID?
- 25:32 – Q&A – Question: What considerations are taken regarding interruptions of control of the UAS in the air after identifying that the drone is threatening?
For more videos from Vigilant Aerospace Systems, visit www.VigilantAerospace.com/videos.
About the UAS Cluster Initiative
The UAS Cluster Initiative for Oklahoma and Kansas is a collaboration funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and managed by Development Capital Networks (DCN), with support from the Oklahoma UAS Council and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. It is focused on accelerating the growth of the Unmanned Aerial System industry in the U.S. by enabling established companies and emerging entrepreneurs in Oklahoma and Kansas to connect, work together, and gain access to national technology, global capital, advanced business models and global markets. For more information, visit UAScluster.com.
View more webinars from the UAS Cluster Initiative here: www.UAScluster.com/pages/webinars.html