It’s no secret that the remote identification rollout has been rocky. Whether intentional or not, compliance has been far from 100%.
Some drone pilots aren’t jumping on flying in a remote ID-compliant manner out of principle, centered around they don’t like the sentiment of Remote ID. Others want to be compliant, but sold out Remote ID modules have truly made the process difficult to impossible. And then there’s a class of drone pilots who very much would like to be Remote ID compliant, but struggle to considering the financial barrier.
In 2023, I put out a guide to the best remote ID modules, but even then the cheapest one of my picks was $99. That module isn’t even necessarily something I would recommend for everyone, given it’s fairly bare bones option.
But this week, Zing (which is the same company behind my top-recommended Remote ID module) put out a new option that’s far more affordable. Zing’s newest product is the Z-RID Lite. Zing calls it a game changer in drone remote identification given its affordability. It costs just $84.99.
In fact, affordability was the key component in designing this new module.
“The Z-RID Lite directly responds to market demand for cost-effective compliance solutions,” according to a prepared statement from Zing Drone Solutions. “(We) identified a significant barrier for drone operators: the high cost of Remote ID Broadcast modules. The Z-RID Lite addresses this challenge by providing a stripped-down, purely functional module dedicated to Remote ID compliance, eliminating extra features in the original Z-RID.”
So what is the Z-RID Lite module, and is it something you should buy?
About the Z-RID Lite module from Zing
The Z-RID Lite module from Zing is actually quite similar to Zing’s previous flagship product, the Zing Z-RID broadcast module. Both are designed to fit on any drone. In fact, Zing says both of the modules have been tested on drones as small as the DJI Mavic Mini. That drone is practically pocket-sized and weighs less than 250 grams.
They’re also totally plug-and-play solutions. Unlike some of the other recommendations for cheap Remote ID modules that typically require a lot of effort on your end to connect them to the drone, these ones are designed to be simple to setup. You basically just take it out of the box, get it charged up, turn it on, and you’re broadcasting. Mount it on your drone and you’re broadcasting from, well, your drone.
Z-RID Lite versus Z-RID: which is better?
So what’s the key difference between the new $85 Z-RID Lite module and the $229 Z-RID?
Battery life (winner: Z-RID):It’s mostly battery life. The original, pricier model offers up to 14 hours of battery life. The new Lite version just gets you a measly four hours.
That’ll likely last you basically a day of flying, as you’d turn it on and off during lunch breaks. But only four hours of battery life might be annoying, as you’ll constantly have to worry about charging it.
If you don’t want to worry about that headache of having to recharge, go with the pricier version.
Size (winner: tie): They are also slightly different dimensions. Both are small, but the Z-RID is more rectangular with dimensions of 25mm x 35mm x 50mm. The Lite’s dimensions are 40mm x 40mm x 30mm.
Weight (winner: Z-RID Lite): The Lite version is literally lighter at 30 grams, versus the standard model’s weight of 35 grams.
Price (winner: Z-RID Lite): It’s hard to argue with the cheapest Remote ID module on the market to-date, which is the $85 Z-RID Lite module. Hey, at least the $229 Z-RID qualifies for my coupon code, which is DRONEGIRL to get $20 off.
Zing says the margins are too low to offer my readers a coupon code on the Lite edition, alas!
A remote ID module made in the USA
Zing’s modules, including the Z-RID and Z-RID Lite, are engineered at MIT and manufactured in California. That’s critical for people seeking American-made products on their drone.
For reference, most other broadcast modules are manufactured and assembled overseas. I do recommend Dronetag products in my guide to the best remote ID modules. Dronetag is based in the Czech Republic and is compliant with both EU and U.S. standards and regulations.
Products made in China, such as HolyStone’s $89 RID1, are concerning to some pilots.
A brief history of Remote ID compliance
Remote ID is a relatively new Federal Aviation Administration requirement. It states that drones flying in the United States must provide identification and location information that can be read by others, including law enforcement and other drone pilots. It’s kind of like an electronic licensing plate system for drones.
There are four types of Remote ID-compliant drone flights. Only flights flying in one of those categories will actually need a separate Remote ID module, such as the Zing Z-RID Lite.
Those four categories 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): Fly in a designated FRIA area? These tend to be large blocks of land owned by model aviation groups or other educational institutions. If so, 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.
The FAA’s initial Remote ID compliance deadline was September 16, 2023. But given challenges including the limited availability of broadcast modules and approved FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (as well as price points too high for most pilots), the FAA said it would not enforce Remote ID rules until March 16, 2024.
The Z-RID Lite is a key component in helping pilots get compliant. There is still one drawback. Zing says its modules won’t ship until March 10, 2024. That’s cutting it close in terms of the enforcement date.
Worried about not being able to fly given that tight shipping date? You might just be better off with the Z-RID. That one is already available, and can ship within three days. And hey, you can get $20 off using coupon code DRONEGIRL.