After numerous delays, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the end of last year. The 60-day public commenting period closed this past Monday, March 2nd, with over 52,000 comments submitted during that time.
DJI, the world’s leading drone manufacturer, has supported the need for Remote ID since 2017. In the interest of moving the industry forward, a proper ruling would allow flights at night, over people and beyond visual line of sight. When the NPRM was released, however, DJI publicly chastised the FAA for not incorporating recommendations submitted by the 74 stakeholders that make up the Aviation Rulemaking Committee.
In its 89-page comment to the FAA, DJI cites independent economic analysis that was prepared by Dr. Christian Dippon, Managing Director at NERA Economic Consulting. The study concludes that the societal costs associated with the Remote ID NPRM would total $5.6 billion. This makes it 9 times more costly than the $582 million the FAA predicts for the next decade.
“I worry about an impact on innovation, with fewer people interested in using drones,” – Brendan Schulman
The long-term ramifications, should the Remote ID NPRM pass in its current form, will extend beyond financial burdens. ‘I worry about an impact on innovation, with fewer people interested in using drones. Our economist’s survey found at least a 10% drop in drone activity if the proposal were implemented, but I think it could be much higher as the full impact is felt by operators,’ Brendan Schulman, DJI’s Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs, tells DPReview.
Remote ID, simply put, is a digital license plate for drones. It allows authorities to identify the location, serial number, and a remote pilot’s identity in near real-time. The FAA is proposing that almost all drones should transmit that information over wireless networks to a service provider’s database. NERA’s study concludes that the monthly cost of a network-based service for a remote pilot would be $9.83 instead of the FAA’s $2.50 estimate.
A few vocal critics have suggested that DJI’s involvement in drafting Remote ID rulemaking has served their own interests, and that regulations will amount to a multi-billion dollar gain for the company. ‘The critics missed the context and history. Since 2017 we knew Remote ID was inevitable as a government mandate, and have been advocating for the best possible result for all drone users: low costs and burdens. Everything we have done on this topic has been focused on those goals. Keep costs low and respect drone user privacy. For example, in March 2017 we released a whitepaper strongly advocating for pilot privacy,’ Schulman explains.
DJI has advocated for a ‘drone-to-phone’ solution that provides Remote ID information on common smartphones without burdening drone operators with any extra costs or effort. DJI says that its solution is cheaper and easier than what the FAA is proposing. Any new ruling on Remote ID will not likely take effect until 2024.
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