This is a draft of my concluding comments in what will be my filing with the FAA’s Remote ID proposal. My final comments will not be done, however, until later in February.
My focus is to attack the Internet logging requirement head on. Because of their proposed mandate for Internet-based real time tracking, there are serious scenarios where the FAA runs afoul of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the 4th Amendment, and State laws on privacy.
The FAA envisions that only compliant craft will be sold. If true, this means that most indoor flight is eliminated because the FAA requires a functioning GPS to fly. Obviously, this is not only unacceptable but implies the FAA is regulating indoor airspace. Not only that but Federal law prohibits the FAA from regulating small UAS used inside mines.
The FAA’s requirement that only compliant small UAS be sold is not only infeasible, but they admit it on Page 8 when they write that this refers only to craft “for use in the airspace of the United States”. This means there will be small UAS for sale labeled “For indoor use only”, which is a major loophole over which they can do nothing. People will buy these and fly wherever they want.
The FAA has little understanding of Internet availability and has managed to word its NPRM in such a way that if your T-Mobile service has no coverage but Verizon does have coverage, then you are required to subscribe to Verizon service to fly. In an extreme interpretation, the FAA’s wording could require you to purchase satellite-based Internet access.
Worse, the NPRM defines a proposed use of Wi-Fi for Remote ID USS data logging that is technically infeasible. The FAA has no understanding of what it is doing here.
My comment filing is now about 45 pages in length with extensive reference material and cited references. This is a draft of my Conclusions and Recommendations section.
Conclusions and Recommendations
- Congress directed FAA to develop standards for “remote identification” but did not specify what features that requires. Congress wrote:
SEC. 2202. IDENTIFICATION STANDARDS.
(a) In General.–The Administrator of the Federal Aviation
Administration, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, the President of RTCA, Inc., and the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, shall convene industry stakeholders to facilitate the development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of unmanned aircraft systems and associated unmanned aircraft.
The FAA has gone beyond the intent of Congress to require mandatory Internet-based logging of all flights, in real-time.
- The FAA ignored its advisory committee of stakeholders. The UAS-ID Aviation Rulemaking Committee recommended that model aircraft (“limited recreational operations”) be excluded from any remote identification requirement. Instead, the FAA developed rules limited existing model aircraft to FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIAs), which will, over time, be shut down and lead to the eventual prohibition of the flight of homebuilt model aircraft. These steps go well beyond the intention of Congress which directed the FAA to develop Remote ID standards only.
The only Congressional requirement is the development of Remote ID.
- The FAA actively sought to reduce the public’s opportunities to influence this proceeding. The FAA established an Advisory Committee that was, per a report from DJI, “stacked” almost entirely with those who stand to benefit professionally and financially from a substantial increase in regulations. The Committee, per DJI, had almost no representation from the public that would bear the greatest burdens of the regulation. According to DJI:
“Less than 7% of the members of the ARC were stakeholders who would primarily face burdens and/or costs from a future Remote ID requirement, while 75% of the members stood primarily to gain from a future Remote ID requirement, either because of their interest in law enforcement tools or in the furtherance of their business objectives or prospective sale of Remote ID technologies or services.”
- The FAA ignored key recommendations from its Advisory Committee of stakeholders.
- The FAA released this NPRM on December 26, 2019, the day after Christmas, at time when media coverage is on vacation, and when resources at organizations are out of the office on vacation.
- The NPRM went in a direction substantially different than that which the public was led to believe was coming, based on the Advisory Committee. Thus, the public was caught off guard and ill prepared to respond.
- The NPRM is a complex rule making proposal, 319 pages in length, with thousands of pages of supporting documents. Yet the FAA provided only 60 days for the public to review, analyze and comment on this proposal. Members of the general public do not have staff available to assign the task of conducting this review – we can only do what we can, in our spare time. The AMA and the EAA both requested extensions to the public comment period, which the FAA sternly denied using harsh wording suggesting it did not have time for public input.
At every opportunity, the FAA has attempted to minimize public input in this proceeding.
- There is no requirement in PL 114-190 that Congress requires real time location tracking or that the FAA should eventually ban homebuilt model aircraft.
- The Advisory Committee even suggested having bolt on remote ID transponder upgrades for existing aircraft. There is no technical reason this cannot be done. The FAA (or Homeland Security) mistakenly believes it can limit future small UAS sales to “compliant” only craft and eliminate home built aircraft. However, due to the “indoor use only” problem, the requirements of COPPA to permit deletion of collected data and suspension of data collection, and that many non-compliant craft will be widely available, the FAA is engaged in an illusion of security and compliance that will never happen. Thus, there is no reason at all to not permit adding remote ID to existing small UAS.
- The FAA has, in its illusion of security, said that only compliant aircraft with functioning GPS and Remote ID may be sold. The NPRM further says that if GPS is not working, then Remote ID is not working, and therefore, the craft may not take flight. This effectively eliminates indoor flight of small UAS – and the FAA is de facto regulating indoor airspace over which it not only has no authority, but in the case of mines, violates Federal law.
- Alternatively, per the description on Page 8 of the NPRM, vendors may place a “for indoor use” only sticker on the side and sell anything they want as the FAA has no authority to restrict sales, nor regulated indoor airspace. This is a necessary loophole that means the FAA’s attempt to lock down all aircraft fails.
- In the event that a GPS signal is received indoors, say inside a home, the NPRM generally requires that this flight transmit, in real time, once per second, operator information and lat/long to an FAA subcontracted Internet database. This means the FAA is mandating surveillance inside one’s private home, in violation of the 4th Amendment. It may also be in conflict with the 5th Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Act and State laws.
- In the event that a child is at the controls (which there is no way to prevent), this results in collection of personally identifiable information including geolocation in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act.
- If a parent discovers the child has flown the craft (indoors or outdoors, with or without permission, in the backyard), the parent has a legal right under COPPA to notify the collector of the data, to request to review that data, and to request to delete that data. COPPA adds significant complexity to the implementation of the Remote ID USS database. Effectively, anyone could request review, deletion and suspension of collected data by asserting their rights under COPPA. This too becomes a major loophole that means the FAA’s attempt to lock down all aircraft fails.
- The Remote ID USS requires the use of an Internet connection which the FAA mistakenly believes is readily available. As our comments have shown, this is not true.
- The FAA defines “Internet is available”in a way that if your cell service does not have coverage, but another service does, then you are required to purchase that additional service if you wish to fly in that location. This is completely unacceptable. Taken to an extreme, this could require purchasing satellite-based Internet access.
- The FAA further defines Internet is available to include Wi-Fi. This however is technically infeasible. When a small UAS control app running on phone connects to the craft using Wi-Fi, the craft is configured as a Wi-Fi Access Point – which has no Internet access. The phone has no feasible way of connecting to a separate Wi-Fi AP to gain Internet access; the phone is technically capable of connecting to one AP at a time. The FAA’s suggestion to use Wi-Fi is technically infeasible.
- The FAA is badly misinformed on Internet access availability, has written its NPRM to potentially mandate higher cost (if not extremely high cost) Internet access, and has specified a technically infeasible use of Wi-Fi for Remote ID USS operation. In addition, the Internet data logging will, in certain situations, violate COPPA and the 4th Amendment (and possibly additional Federal and State laws and other amendments), and establishes a nationwide, aerial-based real-time surveillance system of Americans. Page 97 describes using the Remote ID USS data logging feature to collect other data “such as a camera feed or telemetry data” from small UAS. This can and will be used to create a nationwide surveillance system, photographing our homes and our children, in high resolution, from 100′ to 200′ overhead.
- There are so many problems with mandated Internet data logging that it is infeasible both legally and technically. The FAA – and other Federal laws and regulations – have established a contradictory set of constraints such that it is not possible to implement this NPRM as defined.
- This leaves a limited set of alternatives to satisfy the Congressional directive to implement Remote ID.
- The only viable solution is to implement a broadcast beacon-based Remote ID system.
- As described in my comments, this broadcast beacon ID could be used in conjunction with automated drone fleets relaying such received beacon broadcasts into the Internet, or the use of ground-located beacon ID receivers. This can be constructed in a way to greatly reduce the likelihood of COPPA and 4th Amendment violations.
- The fact the FAA itself defines Standard Remote ID to operate in a broadcast beacon mode only illustrates that even the FAA recognizes that broadcast beacon ID is sufficient.
 A DJI Technology Discussion Paper: Understanding the U. S. Federal Aviation Administration UAS Identification & Tracking ARC Report, DJI Policy & Legal Affairs Office December 19, 2017