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This Whitepaper Is Worth Reading: Kittyhawk Explains Remote ID for Drones

Published: 21/03/2019
By: larry

Back in January of this year, I brought up the issue that "contradictions going on with drone regulation and enforcement are amazing." In the comments, I suggested that "One obvious place to start would be requiring all drones sold anywhere to be equipped with a transponder that continuously broadcasts registration info, GPS coordinates, and altitude."

To my total amazement, my suggestion that a transponder (drone remote ID) is required on drones is likely in progress in the US. Click here or the image above to download Kittyhawk's whitepaper on the subject. Also, click here to see Kittyhawk's predictions on drone remote IDs. All this is apparently a result of the recent public-private relationship with Kittyhawk. Who knows how long this will take but at least it's in progress.

This news has restored my confidence in the FAA.

7 comments on “This Whitepaper Is Worth Reading: Kittyhawk Explains Remote ID for Drones”

  1. The white paper needs a lot of work. The cartoon nature of the layout really gives me pause and also makes it hard to read.

    For small UAVs that we use for RE photos, a complicated real time tracking system could be way more trouble than it's worth. The paper is also assuming that everywhere a drone is used there will be some sort of cell signal available. I've been up in the mountains the past week making aerial images where I don't have a signal. Perhaps there the drone could pick up something, but I didn't have any coverage at ground level. That makes the argument that we all have "supercomputers" in our pockets even more suspect.

    ADS-B is still being deployed and not yet universally required for manned aircraft but it does have the best chance of being useful. If the goal is to make sure aircraft know where each other are to prevent collisions, ADS-B is a good start. There just needs to be an ADS-B transceiver small enough, light enough and not too expensive. Anything that goes into a manned aircraft is too expensive due to the testing required to get it certified. The certification process really doesn't need to be as complex for a drone. It just has to work and be designed so if it fails, it is in a manner that doesn't interfere with others in the area.

    If the goal is to track every single UAV whether it's a small DJI Phantom or a larger autonomous firefighting/cargo aircraft is silly beyond belief. The government will need one of the new Cray computers being specced out right now to process the data. Is this to detect a terrorist attack? I find it very hard to believe that they wouldn't just disable the tracking or build their own craft from parts found on or AliExpress. It would be a frighteningly expensive way to solve an ill-defined and non-existant problem in the most expensive way possible. Let's also not forget that there would need to be a entirely new division of the FAA or Homemade Security to implement the program costing billions a year. I don't like the government tracking what I do, but that's a minor factor in this proposal.

    Why not require motorcycles and scooters to have GPS tracking and long range RFID to combat purse snatchers using them in crowded cities? There have already been proposals to require that cars come equipped with remote kill switches to battle high speed chases. In-note tracking for high-demonination currency notes has been proposed to go after drug trafficking. I think that one got shot down since it would also prevent politicians from receiving untraceable cash bribes in less than luggage sized containers. The technology is out there to do a tremendous amount of tracking of all sorts of things, but it comes with a massive price tag to process the amount of data that could be generated. If a drone were implicated in some crime, would it be worth hundreds of millions of dollars per incident to be able to pinpoint a suspect? A billion dollars each? Is it worth it if circumventing the surveillance only takes a minimal amount of skill to defeat? The procedures will be on YouTube the day after any device with the circuitry is first sold.

  2. The REAL problem with drone regulation enforcement is that there isn't any! I spent a lot of time and money getting my commercial drone license and I know there are several people in my area flying for hire who do not have a license. I haven't see any evidence of FAA proactive drone regulation enforcement in my area, and I suspect I never will unless there's some kind of incident that mandates their attention. There are clear violations of drone regulations in posts all over Facebook (flying in national parks, flying at night, flying over people), and I don't know if any of them are ever followed up. End of rant!

  3. @Dave Frankly I'd rather have the Feds track all the drones then leave it up to these aholes -

    @Ron The Feds don't go looking for offenders any more then cops do, they address complaints. If you don't like somebody flying without qualifications, all you have to do is go online and file a complaint, and those dudes will get a call from the men in black.

  4. @Ron, I agree. I was looking at local listings today and there is a home near me with aerial photos just 1/4 mile from the municipal airport. With the long lead times for authorizations outside of LANNC covered airports, I doubt the photographer was flying legally. As with many other things, the first step is to enforce the regulations that are already on the books. While it might be argued that with real time tracking a ticket could just be mailed, they would be identifying a drone rather than the pilot. If the FAA were to go after the agents, they'd throw the PIC under the bus in a heartbeat.

    If the FAA were to call up a few agents about obviously illegal flights, word would get around pretty quick and agents would start wanting to see operator's licenses, registration and require a signed statement that it's legal to fly in the particular airspace. That could very simply start getting more compliance with very little cost. The last thing an agent wants is to be subject to a big fat fine over a few photos.

  5. I’m in the camp of not liking tons of government tracking, but I’m not of the mind that tracking drones it taking our freedom. Unfortunately, too many knuckleheads is the issue.

    As for enforcement, the FAA doesn’t even have enough enforcement people to take on the big issues. That’s why they are getting criticism for allowing Boeing to self-certify, possibly contributing to the recent crashes of their 373s.

    The issue with drones is their ubiquity. With us sharing airspace with aircraft that can cause a lot more damage if they crash, it’s natural to look for a technical solution. I don’t know if transponders is the correct solution, but I don’t think having the conversation is the first domino to fall.

  6. I hope this never happens. It will up the cost of operating considerably with nearly zero safety benefit. We'll all be 1/100,000th of 1% safer for it but will be SIGNIFICANTLY greater cost as well as added frustration for that nearly nothing safety boost.

    In fact, we should be going the other way. In light of the fact that there have been BILLIONS of drone flights and a SIGNIFCANT portion of them have been WELL over 400 feet (how many of the kids flying these things take it up as high as they can on the first day? Probably most) we can deduce that the real risk from drone/aircraft collision is close to zero. Will a collission eventually happen? Yes. Will someone eventually die from such a collission? Yes. But how long will it take? 100 years? 200 years?

    Put enough drones up in the sky and enough aircraft and mix in enough time and eventually they will meet. It's mathematically impossible for them NOT to meet.'ve got aircraft colliding with each OTHER on the runways. So pilots, who's lives are on the line, are already well ahead of drone operators in the danger to life and limb category. There's exponentially more danger to aircraft from other general aviation aircraft than from drones.

    And we should craft all drone policy in light of that reality.

    That is...drone policy should be created in such a way that it assumes that there is nearly zero risk to manned aircraft from drones. Start at that point and write the policy from there with an emphasis on keeping costs to operators down and maximizing the freedom of all.

    A good start would be to re-write things so that there is ZERO regulation for ALL drone flights under 400 feet unless directly in the landing/take-off pattern of an airport runway and only at a distance out from that runway where aircraft would be expected to found at 400 feet. That's a great starting point and let's go from there.

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