Remote ID is a real-time “digital license plate” for drones and ensures accountability of UAS and their Remote Pilot operators. Today, there is no common system for real-time identification of drones in flight. A standard is necessary to ensure compatibility between systems and to maximize adoption and effectiveness, especially as UAS adoption rapidly increases.
The general consensus in the UAS industry is that Remote ID is a must before drones can be regularly flown in interesting situations such as beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) operation, flying over people, and operation at night. Current regulations only allow enterprises with FAA waivers to perform these operations, and as one would expect, obtaining a waiver is a tedious and costly endeavor.
The adoption of Remote ID by the FAA can go a long way in democratizing access to these commercially attractive drone operations. The firmware the Doodle Labs team developed can be used on any compatible WiFi hardware running a Linux operating system. By releasing the firmware code under an open source license, Doodle Labs and ANRA allow the industry to avoid the interoperability challenges created by proprietary solutions and paving the way for standardization.
An Open Source Broadcast Remote ID Approach
Broadcast Remote ID is useful for unidirectional identification over relatively short distances, essentially like a beacon transmitting its identifying information. Draft ASTM standards outline two primary methods for Broadcast Remote ID leveraging technologies – Bluetooth and WiFi – to ensure compatibility with commonly carried handheld devices.Doodle Labs’ expertise in wireless communication enabled them to help design a reference WiFi implementation in line with these draft ASTM standards. Intel’s Open Drone ID team collaborated to incorporate aspects of their Broadcast approach.
The result is a reference framework that the entire industry can leverage and drone vendors can easily integrate into their product. Indeed, Doodle Labs’ Smart Radio will soon include these Broadcast Remote ID capabilities off-the-shelf.
Proving the concept:
ANRA Technologies & Doodle Labs’ successful demo in May 2019, the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) assessed the solution developed by ANRA Technologies and Doodle Labs at Griffiss International Airport. During the assessment, NUAIR tested ANRA’s UTM (unmanned traffic management) technology by flying multiple drones at the site. Among the drones tested were two equipped with WiFi broadcast modules developed by Doodle Labs. UAS Service Suppliers (USS) pilots used ANRA’s UTM software to manage the drones in real-time and interact with a network Remote ID display provider. Drones continuously broadcasted a Remote ID advertisement, while a smartphone Display App listened for the advertisements and displayed the drones’ current location and path on a map. Data for all drones with networked Remote IDs was aggregated and provided to the Display App, demonstrating how networked and broadcast Remote ID can enable better overall visibility and communication between multiple drones and parties (e.g. operators, traffic controllers, law enforcement).
Another promising aspect of the assessment was a public-facing app that provides data on drones to the general public. For example, an individual with the app could determine if a drone was flown by an FAA-approved operator or not.
The two-day assessment was a resounding success with Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr stating, “This new tool will prove vital in the traffic management and public safety of unmanned aircraft systems and continue to push the industry forward.”
What’s next for UTM and Remote ID?
The push towards standardization is particularly important at this stage in Remote ID’s development. A federal ruling on Remote ID is expected in September 2019. At the same time, NASA continues to test UTM technologies and is working to transfer their UTM project to the FAA. Once the federal agencies finalize the regulatory standards and conclude testing, we will see the private sector gain more confidence in adopting specific standards and solutions.