View: Remote Identification is essential technology for safe…

By Lalit Gupta & Nandita Pegu

The Ministry of Civil Aviation recently notified the Draft UAS Rules 2020 and invited public comments on the proposed rules. This was necessitated due to increasing commercial and civilian use of drones in the country as also evidenced by current Covid-19 and anti-locust drone applications. The draft rules aims at creating a robust regulatory framework for the UAV industry to address the safety and security concerns of drone operations and providing a clear pathway for operationalizing the various aspects of the regulations while improving compliance of the drone eco-system players.

Many widely quoted research studies predict that Indian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) market will touch over $ 1 billion dollar by 2025 with drones’ operations becoming commonplace. However, this is concomitant on the existence of conducive and consumer friendly regulatory environment that will allow seamless integration of drones into the airspace.

Globally aligned system necessary

Registration of drones is just the first step in the entire complex regulatory system. To enable safe and secure drone operations, it is necessary to implement an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system that is integrated into the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. However, India’s unique one-stop national Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system called the “Digital Sky Platform” which will also implement the No Permission-No Takeoff clause, has been delayed continuously since its launch, affecting legal drone operations in the country. Perhaps it is time to look at ways to simplify the system and take a cue from global developments in the field of UTM. Remote Identification technology has emerged as a frontrunner in such discussions as major western nations representing key drone markets are moving towards introducing this technology as a core component of their UTMs.

What is Remote Identification?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the USA defines the remote identification (or Remote ID) as the ability of an unmanned aircraft in flight to provide identification and location information that people on the ground and other airspace users can receive. The FAA is currently working with industry players to develop technology requirements for its implementation of remote ID based on ASTM standards while simultaneously framing the final Remote ID rules. It is considered as a major step towards further integration of drones into the U.S. National Airspace (NAS) and for developing a robust unmanned traffic management (UTM) system. European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) defines ‘direct remote identification’ as a system that ensures the local broadcast of information about an unmanned aircraft in operation, including the marking of the unmanned aircraft, so that this information can be obtained without physical access to the unmanned aircraft. EASA’s new UAS rules adopted mid-June 2020, to be applicable from 31st December 2020, has made direct remote identification a necessary condition for operations. According to American Society of for Testing and Materials (ASTM), that has published standard ASTM F3411 – 19 on “Standard Specification for Remote ID and Tracking”, Remote ID allows governmental and civil identification of UAS using an assigned ID for safety, security, and compliance purposes. ASTM standards is being adopted by global regulators such as FAA and EASA.

Types of Remote ID

Remote ID is broadly categorized into two types: Broadcast Remote ID and Network Remote ID. Broadcast Remote ID is based on the transmission of radio signals directly from an airborne UAS to ground receivers in the UAS’s vicinity using one of the transmit protocols for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Broadcast Remote ID is particularly useful in areas where network coverage is unreliable, disrupted, or not available. Network Remote ID is based on communication through internet from a Network Remote ID service provider (Net-RID SP) that interfaces directly or indirectly with the UAS, equipped with a sim card. Thus, Network Service Providers act as the middlemen between the operators and the end users such as ATC or law enforcement agencies. Under Remote ID protocols, drones will electronically share their drone’s serial number; longitude and latitude of the drone and ground control stations; barometric pressure altitude of the drone and control station along with time stamp.

Advantages of Remote ID

Remote ID which is commonly referred to as a ‘digital license plate’ for drones increases Remote Pilot accountability by removing anonymity while preserving privacy of the operator’s personal identifiable information. It helps in addressing the safety and security concerns associated with drones to a large extent by addressing the ‘who’ factor thereby building public confidence in the technology. It improves situational awareness during flight by providing critical locational information. This can enable the expansion of commercial and emergency drone operations such as beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, over people and nighttime operations essential for introducing drone delivery services, inspections, surveys, and search & rescue etc. Remote ID also makes it easy for law enforcement agencies to identify the non-compliant operators contributing to better enforcement of existing rules and regulations. Another often-cited advantage of the technology is that it will provide law enforcement agencies with actionable data for informed policymaking which will benefit the drone industry and the consumers.


In Indian context, where network connectivity is still a big challenge in remote areas and in certain urban pockets, Broadcast Remote ID is the obvious choice for VLOS operations that will make uniform implementation possible. Drones with Wi-Fi capabilities can easily become compliant to broadcast Remote ID by a quick firmware update requiring no additional hardware component to be fitted. Additionally, unlike Network Remote ID, Broadcast Remote ID does not have a user fee or subscription cost collected by third party network service providers, which will encourage greater acceptance of the technology by users.

It is high time that we take a cue from global developments around the technology and look at ways to build our own Remote ID system. To this end, the government may like to work with the industry to develop the technical requirements for Remote Identification modeled on ASTM standards along with defining applicability threshold for ID and tracking requirements for various categories of drones. The government may also develop a data transmission industry standard to ensure interoperability between the Remote ID devices and the receivers on ground, which will reduce implementation costs.

(Dr. Lalit Gupta is a former Joint Director General of Civil Aviation, Aviation expert and the Chief Advisor of Aviation Technology Forum of India (ATFI).Nandita Pegu is a public policy consultant)

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