Updated on February 12, 2020.
Summary of Key Points and Recommendations
The NPRM eliminates most indoor flights of small UAS
The NPRM envisions that only Remote ID compliant craft will be sold. Remote ID compliant craft are unable to take off if they cannot receive a GPS signal. As a GPS signal is not receivable in most indoor locations, this de facto eliminates indoor flight of small UAS and implies the FAA is regulating the indoor airspace, over which it has no jurisdiction. This indoor flight restriction violates PL 115-254 Sec. 354. Or maybe not – comments on Page 8 and 22 of the NPRM suggest anyone can sell non-compliant drones by adding a “For indoor use only” sticker since the FAA cannot regulate indoor airspace nor the products on the shelf at Walmart. Which makes much of this NPRM moot.
FAA’s Proposed Use of FCC Part 15 Spectrum Will Cause Interference and Crashes
The FAA proposes to use 47 CFR Part 15 of the FCC rules and regulations for transmission of Remote ID broadcast beacon signals and requires that transmitters “must be designed to maximize the range at which the broadcast can be received”. The requirement to “maximize the range” mandates that small UAS transmit at the 4 w ERP level (1 watt spread spectrum, 6 db gain antenna) – from aircraft potentially located hundreds of feet in the air. This is not how Part 15 bands are intended to be used, will cause interference to residential consumer devices, and may lead to receiver desense and loss of flight control signals, causing SUAS to crash, when multiple SUAS are flown in close proximity to each other.
The FAA Envisions Using Wi-Fi in a way that is Not Technically Feasible
The NPRM proposes using Wi-Fi, if available, to log flights with the Remote ID USS, particularly with a presumably lower cost Limited Remote ID system. Small UAS that use a flight control app on the smart phone are communicating with the SUAS craft using Wi-Fi. Currently existing small UAS implement a Wi-Fi Access Point (AP) on the aircraft and the phone connects to this AP. The phone cannot simultaneously connect to a second AP that has Internet access; the phone can connect to only one AP at a time. Thus, Wi-Fi cannot be used to provide a Remote ID USS connection. The NPRM proposes a Limited Remote ID that appears intended for low cost consumer quadcopters that would be controlled via a smart phone flight control app, logging the flight to the Remote ID USS over Wi-Fi. As envisioned, this is not technically feasible. The flight control app would have to log the flight over a smart phone Mobile Data connection. This means the concept of a low cost Limited Remote ID small UAS is unobtainable. The Limited Remote ID should be dropped and replaced with a broadcast beacon Remote ID for Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and Internet-based Remote ID USS retained only for Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations (BVLOS). Related: Based on my own tests, the addition of a Remote ID USS data logging app, transmitting once per second, may reduce smart phone battery capacity by 10%. When combined with a smart phone-based flight control app, this may drain 40-50% of the battery in 30 minutes of flying.
The NPRM violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
COPPA specifies strict protections regarding the collection of data related to children, including geolocation data and data from “toys and Internet of Things”. An age restriction or permission from a parent or guardian to collect data does not resolve the problem. If a child flew a quad with or without permission, the parent or guardian is legally entitled to contact the data collector and ask to review, delete or suspend future data collection. The NPRM, however requires logged data be retained for at least six months – but COPPA applies to the Federal government – there is no exemption for the FAA. This is a problem for the use of the Internet to log operator information to a Remote ID USS.
The NPRM violates the 4th Amendment
In the event a small UAS (SUAS) can receive a GPS signal indoors, when that SUAS is flown inside a home, it is required to log its activity in the Remote ID USS. The FAA is mandating the installation of a surveillance device inside a home, which lawyers tell me is not permitted by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Others suggest there may conflicts with the 5th Amendment, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act prohibition on collecting electronic signals of Americans.
Click the “Continued reading” link, here, to continue reading my full Summary of FAA NPRM Remote ID issues. There are a lot!Continue reading FAA NPRM Summary of key points and recommendations, in my comments