Jay Shears | January 12, 2020

Depending on who you talk with; there’s a drone evolution or a (r)evolution underway. Drones are indiscriminate of everything we do and everyplace we go. They will soon be everywhere providing and transforming actionable data into expectations for new outcomes and opportunities.


In 2020, it seems like using the term “Unidentified Flying Object” (UFO) has taken on a whole new meaning. UFO’s seem to now include an “Unmanned” Flying Object, i.e. drones, that cannot be identified.  Mysterious drone UFO sightings that could be piloted by “bad actors” are on the rise. Frustrated officials have increased surveillance technology, resources and budgets to mitigate the risk to safety and privacy from these UFO’s.


The FAA is the first civil aviation regulatory agency to propose rule making for a Remote Identification “RID” system to track and manage the usage of millions of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), commonly known as drones. The new proposed rules were published on December 31st, 2019 to introduce using remote identification technology to mitigate safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns. Stated differently, the FAA wants to change the rules to identify and get RID of “bad actors” who could remotely pilot drones.

Immediately after the proposed rules were published, the FAA document logged more than 100,000 views and 1,000 comments. The comments were mostly negative and heavily weighted with concerns about remote pilot privacy and drone affordability. Regardless, the FAA has made it clear, that it will not accept careless, reckless, or illegal behavior by remote pilots. The FAA believes that remotely tracking and identifying drones and their operators in real time, will create an opportunity for more permissive drone use cases.


Under the new proposed RID rules, the FAA will require all drones larger than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) to be individually registered and these drones must broadcast identifying information in order to fly in designated airspace. The FAA has also made it clear that RID would be required for advanced operations i.e., flight over people, etc. 

RID calls for various other requirements to be phased in over three years, with the flexibility for more rule changes prior to the final rule publication. 

Although somewhat disruptive, the FAA is proposing a balance of specific aircraft and pilot location, identification and other required information to be quickly identifiable to whom it may concern. Any exceptions to this rule, will be permitted to only operate in recognized federally approved, designated areas called “FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA)”.


This is not the first time a groundbreaking transformative identification technology has challenged the aviation culture. The first attempt at remote identification of “manned” aircraft was in 1943. This was when the Air Force air traffic controllers started using Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) equipment technology for military pilots to land in poor visibility. The technology evolved and matured into the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system.  This IFF system used receiver/transmitters (aka transponders) in ‘friendly’ aircraft that responded to coded radar ‘interrogations’. In the 60’s the FAA published a standard for civil aviation transponders and these transponders eventually became mandatory equipment in certain designated airspace. The 70’s  followed with a new identification system called the Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System (ATCRBS), also known as Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR). This SSR system improved the safety and performance of surveillance between the ground and the aircraft.



With the FAA introduction of the sUAS rule making proposal for RID on December 31st, 2019;  concurrently, another similar mandate became effective for manned aircraft on January 1st, 2020.  The new mandate for manned aircraft is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B). This new ADS-B technology transmits aircraft position and velocity in 3 dimensions along with other aircraft relevant information to whomever is listening.   

The RID proposed rule making continues the airspace traffic management (R)evolution and is the next generation of improvements, for the situational awareness and safe operation of both manned aircraft and unmanned aerial systems within the same National Airspace System.

We should also anticipate that the final rule will help to “RID” the airspace system of “bad actors”  and introduce a new decade of aviation outcomes and opportunities, never before imagined.


Jay Shears is the founder of 2TAKE FLIGHT 4U ; a startup, that’s reinventing aerial inspections and the UAS service execution management of critical assets. Jay is also a FAA Manned | Unmanned Commercial Pilot, Certified Flight Instructor and FAA Safety Team Representative.