Remote ID modules are small devices that can be attached to your drone to broadcast its location and other information to other aircraft and air traffic control. And if you’re seeking to be Remote ID compliant (which you should be, as it’s a legal requirement in the U.S.), then you very likely may be seeking the best Remote ID module to add to your drone:
Remote ID is a new Federal Aviation Administration requirement for all drones flying in the United States. In short, drones must provide identification and location information that can be read by others, whether it’s law enforcement or simply other drone pilots. Some have referred to the Remote ID rules as a sort of electronic licensing plate system for drones.
There are four types of Remote ID-compliant drone flights, and only flights flying in one of those buckets will actually need a separate Remote ID module, such as those described in this guide to the best Remote ID modules.
Those four “buckets” of drone flights are:
- 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, it’s fairly obvious if it’s built in via details on the packaging or the user manual.
- Drones flying in a 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
- 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 the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Autel Evo Nano drone.
- 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 is required to broadcast the drone’s unique ID, location, altitude, velocity, takeoff location and elevation and time mark throughout takeoff to shutdown. Yep, all other drone flights that don’t fit into one of the above three buckets will end up in this bucket.
And with that, folks in that fourth category will likely want to know the best Remote ID module:
Best overall: Zing Z-RID broadcast module
The Zing Z-RID broadcast module is the perfect combination of easy to use, even easier to install and offered at the most affordable price.
The Zing Z-RID broadcast module sells for $199 (though enter Zing coupon code DRONEGIRL for $20 off your purchase to bring your price down to $179). That makes it cheaper than other similar products we reviewed, including the $219 Dronetag Beacon Broadcast Remote ID Module or the $199 AeroPing by DroneDefense.
Read our full Zing Z-RID broadcast module review here, but in short, this product couldn’t be easier to use. The module, which weighs just 35 grams, charges through a simple USB-C cable (which is included). It then it mounts to your drone via a straightforward 3M velcro lock — no soldering needed. To actually use it, simply power it on and fly.
When the Z-RID broadcast module is properly installed on your drone (which is easy to do), your drone flight is compliant under FAA regulation 14 CFR Part 89.
Another standout: it’s made in the U.S.. Zing is an American drone company based in Miami, Florida, and the modules themselves are manufactured in San Jose, California. Zing doesn’t sell through third-party retailers, so the only way to get your hands on the Zing Z-RID broadcast module is by buying it directly through Zing’s website.
Upgrade pick: Dronetag Mini
The Drone Tag Mini is far more advanced than the Zing Z-RID broadcast module. But for the additional features, you’ll also owe more. The Dronetag Mini goes for $329. That’s 84% more expensive than the Zing module.
So why should you pay so much more for the Dronetag Mini? While not for everyone, people seeking real-time flight data and unlimited range will find it worth paying for.
The Dronetag Mini can transfer your drone’s position and identification to the company’s cloud, displaying your real-time flight data in the company’s own app (also called Dronetag). That enables advanced drone operations and coordination of manned and unmanned traffic in the same airspace.
Zing offers the ability to unlock a similar UTM component, but for an extra price. To unlock similar integrations using our top pick module, Zing’s Z-RID broadcast module, you’d need to pay for an ongoing subscription. Zing partners with California-based software company Skyway, to offer the subscription service, letting you track your data in the cloud via their online portal. Given that the subscription entails an ongoing cost, the Dronetag Mini might net out cheaper in the long-run once you add on the ongoing subscription payments.
As far as the physical Dronetag Mini device, it weighs 32 grams (comparable to Zing’s module) and similarly is attachable to any drone with a strong, re-closable dual lock fastener. It sells for $329 on Adorama.
Best for a budget, DIY option: Dronetag DRI
We’ll call out the Dronetag DRI because of its low price point — just $52. It’s also the smallest remote ID module we’ve seen so far on the market, weighing only 1.5 grams.
But it’s not for everyone. The Dronetag DRI is designed for use with a standard Pixhawk controller running PX4 or Ardupilot. To use it, simply plug the tiny module into your TELEM port, configure the appropriate baud rate, and go fly.
That assumes you are using MAVlink, PX4 or Ardupilot FCs, though. For folks seeking a module for other off-the-shelf drones, this won’t work for you.
The Dronetag DRI comes from a company based in the Czech Republic and is compliant with both EU and U.S. standards and regulations.
Another great American-made budget option: Flite Test FT EZ ID – Remote ID Module
If you’re seeking another budget option that’s made in America, look to the Flite Test FT EZ ID – Remote ID Module which is designed and manufactured in the United States. The module itself is manufactured by an Ohio-based company called Tritium Electronics.
At $99, it’s slightly more expensive than our other budget option, but it’s compatible with way more drones and is made in the U.S., which might be important to some pilots.
While it’s not as sleek as our top, overall pick of the Zing Z-RID broadcast module, it’s still surprisingly able to be installed easily and then removed should you want to reinstall it on another recreational aircraft.
Though unlike our top pick from Zing, this module draws its power (an average of ten milliamps) from the aircraft. That means it won’t be as easy of a plug in play solution as the Zing module, where you simply charge it, press the power button and go. With this, you’ll have to have some technical knowledge to connect it to your drone’s battery (and it won’t be compatible with something like a DJI drone that uses an Intelligent Flight Battery.
It’s a pretty bare bones module (it weighs 10 grams) and includes an integrated GPS receiver and a Bluetooth transmitter.
How to pick the best Remote ID module for you
When choosing the best Remote ID module for you, consider your specific needs. If you’re a recreational pilot, you may want a module that is easy to use and affordable. If you’re a commercial pilot, you may need a module with more advanced features and reliability.
Here are some additional factors to consider when choosing a Remote ID module:
- Compatibility: Make sure the module is compatible with your drone. Some modules are designed for specific drone models or brands.
- Features: Consider the features that are important to you. Some modules offer additional features, such as real-time tracking or flight data recording.
- Battery life: Make sure the module has a battery life that is long enough for your needs.
- Price: Remote ID modules can range in price from around $50 to $300. Choose a module that fits your budget and needs.
No matter which Remote ID module you choose, make sure to read the instructions carefully and install it correctly. And in that vein, make sure you’ve registered your drone with the FAA — and ensure that you’ve kept your registration information up to date.
What Remote ID module are you using? Would you recommend it? Leave a comment below!