Last week, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sent a letter – and a clear message – to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao: move forward on remote ID for drones.
The full text of the letter can be found here, but the gist is clear: get remote ID done.
“We write to register our ongoing concerns regarding the continuing delay in the issuing of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rule requiring remote identification for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and urge you to dedicate the necessary staff and resources for the rapid publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on this subject.”
The committee says that the failure to complete Remote ID poses “serious risks” to the airspace and also “stifle innovation” in the drone industry.
The letter points out the extent of the slip: the 2016 FAA Authorization Extension called for the regulations or guidance to be issued a year ago, by July of2018. From the initiation of rulemaking on remote ID in February of 2018, to an announced publication date of May 2019, the date is currently July 21, 2019. But even so, enactment of Remote ID is a long way off.
“Assuming the FAA holds to this timeline, the agency has informed stakeholders that a final rule will not be released for two years,” says the letter. “Our concerns are exacerbated by that fact that once a final rule is issued, the date by which UAS operators must comply with remote identification requirements may be months, or even years, after issuance.”
Lawmakers point out that the FAA can no longer use the excuse that Section 336, which prevented the agency from enacting new rules for model aircraft, prevents them from making rules on Remote ID. That Section has now been repealed, but the standards for remote ID are still not forthcoming.
There are many reasons for this – the technology isn’t simple, there are multiple methods and discussions over which is best, and many stakeholders in the mix. Still, the Committee’s frustration with the process comes across clearly in the letter – and they are now asking the DOT to be accountable.
“Given the utmost importance of the remote identification rule and its pivotal role in UAS integration efforts, we respectfully request that you provide a written and detailed response that includes the steps and timeframes for issuing the NPRM and final rule, as well as projected timelines for Department of Transportation Office of the Secretary (OST) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reviews of those projects,” says the letter. “We also request that your staff provide our staff with a briefing on progress made each quarter until the remote identification rule is finalized.”
AirTransport World reports that the chairman of the committee responsible for publishing the ASTM standards on Remote ID says that it should be finished by “late summer,” and that the committee recognizes the importance of the standards. AirTransport World reports: “We’ve already gone through a preliminary ballot at the working group level and will do a ballot to take in the whole committee,” Philip Kenul, F38 Committee chairman, told ATW. “We plan on having [the standard] finished this summer. We accelerated the development effort because we knew this was so important to the regulators and the industry.”