This week is all about Remote ID, as the September 16, 2023 is the final deadline for drone pilots to make their drones Remote ID compliant. That’s under the Federal Aviation Administration’s final rule for remote ID, which mandates a way that drones must provide identification and location information. But drone remote ID modules are proving to be out of stock — and that’s causing a problem for many drone pilots.
What are drone remote ID modules?
Most drone pilots don’t actually have to worry about purchasing separate remote ID modules. That’s because many drones — particularly off-the-shelf drones from major manufacturers — come with built-in Remote ID capability.
Among the most popular drones with built-in Remote ID capability include the Autel Lite series, DJI Mini 3 Pro, DJI Air 2S and the DJI FPV. For owners of those drones, they typically just need to run a firmware and app update, and they’re largely good to go.
But for owners of other drones that do not have built-in Remote ID capability, you’ll need a separate Remote ID module.
These modules are small, typically <40 gram devices that can mount to your drone. For now, there are about a half dozen companies who make remote ID modules. Among the largest and most reputable is Dronetag, which is based in the Czech Republic and makes remote ID modules that are compliant in both EU and US regions.
Dronetag products include:
- Dronetag Mini: An advanced Remote ID offering full-featured, unlimited range ($329)
- Dronetag Beacon Broadcast Remote ID Module: A bare-bones module that can transmit your drone’s location via Bluetooth to up to a 3 km ($219)
- Dronetag DRI: A 1.5-gram module for Pixhawk controllers running PX4 or Ardupilot ($52)
Drone remote ID modules are sold out pretty much everywhere
Dronetag’s offerings are solid — but pretty much all Dronetag products — as well as the remote ID modules sold by other companies — are sold out (or at least, backordered).
For example, Adorama says the Dronetag Beacon is on backorder, expected to arrive by October 15. The same is true for its Dronetag Mini. There are only 6 approved module manufacturers at the moment — and the others are also generally unavailable for purchase.
For example, BlueMark’s DroneBeacon Db120 RemoteID (Remote ID RID) Broadcast Module is available for pre-order. But since it’s not clear when it’ll actually ship, ordering one is risky. Pierce Aerospace makes its own remote ID module called the B1 Remote ID Beacon, but the $265 device is also only available for pre-order. The company says its device is estimated for delivery sometime in October 2023.
How is the shortage affecting pilots?
Pilot Institute, which offers courses on drones, conducted a survey of 2,081 drone pilots to see how prepared they are for Remote ID. And of the 2,081 respondents in their survey, 51% said they still needed at least one Remote ID module. There are a few reasons why, but of that cohort, 23% said they simply haven’t ordered modules because they’re either backordered or not available. Meanwhile, 11% of the people who still need Remote ID modules said that they ordered one but they just haven’t arrived.
Pilot Institute estimates that more than 350,000 remote ID modules are needed in order to get all American drone pilots to compliance. According to their calculations, it would take 26 weeks of 2,200 units made per the existing number of approved module manufacturers needed to have enough modules for everyone.
Pilot Institute pointed to challenges like the worldwide supply chain issues as a reason for all the backordered or sold out devices.
What do I do if I can’t find any Remote ID modules for sale?
If you want to remain compliant, your options are slim.
Borrow a drone that is compliant: You could temporarily use a drone that does have a built-in Remote ID module, but that could be an expensive proposition. You can see if your drone is already remote ID by searching for that particular aircraft model via the FAA’s UAS Declaration of Compliance website.
Restrict yourself to FRIAs: You could fly exclusively in a FAA-Recognized Identification Area, which are places around the country recognized by the FAA as spots where unmanned aircraft not equipped with Remote ID are still allowed to legally fly, such as fields owned by flying clubs, model aircraft groups or universities. Flying in such areas is one of a handful of ways you can conduct Remote ID-compliant drone flights. That’s also tricky. According to Pilot Institute, there are very few FRIAs even approved, meaning there’s unlikely to even be one in your area.
Wait it out: Patience, friends. Most drone Remote ID modules are projected to be back in stock within the month. You could always fly indoors using something like the DJI Avata (as indoor drone flights do not have to be Remote ID compliant).
Petition the FAA: That’s what some folks are doing, including Greg Reverdiau, who is the cofounder of Pilot Institute. He wrote an open letter to the FAA, asking that the organization delay Remote ID enforcement for drone operators from September 16, 2023 to March 2024 or later.
“Without widespread acceptance and compliance, Remote ID will fail and will be impossible to enforce,” he wrote in his letter. “As it stands, 43% of operators will be forced into non-compliance in 2 weeks, or simply refuse to comply. This number can decrease if pilots and operators are given more time to comply.”