March 16 Remote ID deadline looms: are you ready for Remote ID?

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Remote ID rule, which mandates most drones to broadcast their unique identification and location information, is nearly upon us. With the compliance deadline set for March 16, 2024, drone pilots need to ensure their flights are in line with the new regulations.

March 16? What about Sept. 16, 2023? The September date was initially supposed to be the Remote ID enforcement date. That meant that drone pilots would need to be Remote ID compliant under the FAA’s rule by that September date.  But that deadline was too much too soon for even the most law-abiding of drone pilots for a number of reasons including that remote ID modules had been largely out of stock. Given that, the FAA announced a Remote ID extension back in September 2023, giving pilots another roughly six months to get their gear in check.

And now, with an array of Remote ID modules for sale and firmware and software updates made, it’s more realistic for drone operators to get compliant. And as of next Saturday, flying within compliance is the law.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of next week’s Remote ID enforcement deadline:

The ultimate Remote ID deadline guide

Know when Remote ID is required — and when it’s not

Remote ID is required for most drone flights in the U.S. — but not all. There are basically four types of Remote ID-compliant drone flights, listed below. Drone flights that fit in the descriptions of buckets 1 and 4 need to broadcast their Remote ID, either with a built-in module or a separate module (more on that later). Drone flights in buckets 2 and 3 don’t actually need to broadcast their information. 

Here are those four “buckets” of drone flights:

  1. Drones with built-in Remote ID capability: Most newer, off-the-shelf or ready-to-fly drones fit into this bucket, including the DJI Mavic 3 series and the Autel Lite series. Generally speaking, you can usually tell if it’s built in by looking at the details on the packaging or in the user manual.
  2. Drones flying in an FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA): If you’re flying in one of these designated FRIA areas (which tend to be large blocks of land owned by model aviation groups or other educational institutions), you don’t need to broadcast your drone’s location or 
  3. Drones that weigh less than 250 grams and that are flown recreationally: Similarly, there’s another group of drones that don’t need to broadcast location — those drones weighing under 250 grams and that are flown recreationally. Such drones include the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Autel Evo Nano drone
  4. Drones that do not have built-in Remote ID capability: Here lies the category of people who will need an add-on Remote ID module that you can attach to your drone. This module must broadcast the drone’s unique ID, location, altitude, velocity, takeoff location, elevation, and time mark from takeoff to shut down. Yep, all other drone flights that don’t fit into one of the above three buckets will end up in this bucket.

Additionally, indoor drone flights don’t need to broadcast their location, as the FAA doesn’t regulate flying indoors — they only regulate the skies.

Is your drone already compliant? It may be

While the March 16 enforcement deadline could mean huge changes for some pilots, it could also mean practically nothing to other drone pilots.

Most new, ready-to-fly drones manufactured after Sept. 16, 2022, already have built-in Remote ID capabilities. Yes, that means you might unknowingly already fall into bucket one. Among the most common drones that have built-in remote ID capabilities include:

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The DJI Avata drone

If you’re not sure whether your drone already has built-in Remote ID capabilities, check your drone’s manual or manufacturer’s website for confirmation. And if you really want to be sure, check your drone’s Declaration of Compliance on the FAA website. There, you’ll find the FAA’s publicly-available “Drone Identification and Tracking Equipment (DI&TE)” list. That database allows you to search for compliant drones and broadcast modules by brand, model, or serial number.

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Learn how to equip your non-compliant drone so you can once again fly legally

If your drone doesn’t have built-in Remote ID and you’re not flying in buckets two or three, fret not. Numerous approved Remote ID broadcast modules are available for purchase from various manufacturers. These modules attach to your existing drone and transmit the required information during flight.

Unfortunately for drone pilots, though, they’re not cheap. We’ve put together a list of the best Remote ID modules, but even the cheapest ready-to-fly option costs X (that’s the Zing Z-RID Lite, and it costs $85).

Understand what information is broadcasted

Remote ID is a sort of digital license plate for drones. The rule was implemented to help the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or in areas where it is not allowed to fly. 

The FAA requires that all remote ID compliant drones broadcast information including:

  • Unique ID: Similar to a digital license plate for your drone.
  • Location and Altitude: Enables awareness of your drone’s position in the airspace.
  • Drone Velocity: Provides information on the speed and direction of your drone.
  • Control Station Location and Elevation: Identifies the location of your pilot station.
  • Time Mark: Timestamps the broadcasted data.
  • Emergency Status: Allows for signaling of potential emergencies.

What will enforcement look like? Here’s what we know

The FAA has stated that enforcement will be gradual, focusing on education and outreach initially. But keep in mind that March 16, 2024 does mark the enforcement deadline.

It’s also critical to note that violations — whether repeated or even first-time, could result in fines and perhaps the suspension or revocation of pilot certificates.

And Remote ID is not sufficient to legally fly in the eyes of the FAA. Among other requirements for flying drones include that drone pilots must register with the FAA. Additionally, commercial drone pilots (meaning those flying for work or other types of pay) must also hold a Remote Pilot Certificate (aka a drone pilot’s license). That can be attaining by passing the Part 107 Aeronautical Knowledge Test, which is a written exam.

One more note: there’s no such thing as “grandfathering” in older drone or RC airplanes. Remote ID applies to all unmanned aircraft that require FAA registration or have been registered.

That said, you don’t have to put standard Remote ID equipment in home-built drones if it’s flown solely for your own recreational or educational purposes.

Stay up-to-date with Remote ID news

Just as the Remote ID deadline has changed, the Remote ID has been an ever-changing story. We’ve been keeping up-to-date with it here. But as for the latest updates, resources, and FAQs regarding Remote ID directly from the source? Visit the FAA’s dedicated Remote ID webpage

And it’s a rule that very well may evolve, particularly considering the controversy surrounding the Remote ID deadline.  Many major businesses in the drone industry have responded relatively positively to the Remote ID rule.  That even includes a generally-positive statement from DJI. But not everyone is on board — including some drone businesses and individual pilots. According to a survey on Remote ID put together by Part 107 course provider Pilot Institute, 15% of the flying population said they would voluntarily not comply with Remote ID requirements.

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