Remote ID Solutions – How They Differ from Existing Drone Tracking Systems?

kucera-chris_agi2In an expert interview with Chris Kucera, Director of Air Operations of Analytical Graphics Inc., insights on the remote ID solutions were discussed. Here is a brief on some of the insights discussed.

Ques: There are many drone tracking solutions currently available in the market. So, how does the remote ID solution differ from the existing solutions?

Ans: Remote identification is required to ensure anonymity of drone operations. If an operator is flying a drone, nearby law enforcement should be able to understand which operator is controlling the drone. This has been a serious issue holding back further rulemaking in the U.S. Existing radar systems and other uncooperative tracking solutions may be useful in tracking a drone, but they don’t provide important information about the drone owner or the operation being performed. Remote identification is based on user cooperation, like a vehicle owner putting a license plate on their car.

Ques: What are the different remote ID solutions being proposed and which solution do you see getting implemented in the future?

Ans: To enable remote identification, two possible solutions can be used – broadcast and network. A broadcast solution enables remote identification by transmitting data directly from the drone. Network solutions rely on systems like UAS Traffic Management (UTM) software to obtain tracking data from the drone operator and make that information available over a networked air picture.

It’s important to consider standards when developing a system like remote identification. We have been a part of the ASTM remote identification working group where consensus standards are being considered. ASTM will standardize the type of data required to be transmitted by the drone or drone operator, including position information, heading, and velocity, among others.

Ques: As the usage of drones has been increased across different applications, there will certainly be a need for managing and tracking drones in the national airspace. How do you see the future of remote drone identification market?

Ans: In the U.S., we are waiting for policy decisions which would require an operator to acquire a remote identification solution. I think most, if not all drones, will need to have some sort of remote identification capability to sort both safety and security concerns. If the position of all drones is known, this should significantly reduce the concern of law enforcement and air traffic control. The data gathered by UTM systems will help manage safety and security concerns. Also, law enforcement may have a way to directly communicate with a drone operator, if the need arises.

Remote identification is becoming a reality; however, governments and the industry have a lot of work to do. Consensus standards in American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) must be finalized along with the regulatory changes that need to be undertaken, requiring drone operators to have remote identification systems. Also, the need to move the technology readiness level forward on both broadcast- and network-based remote identification solutions is gaining momentum.

Ques: What are the prominent growth drivers and challenges in the remote drone identification system market?

Ans: There will be a need for both remote ID hardware and situational awareness systems that allow law enforcement to get information about a drone operation. Primary growth drivers for these systems will be the total number of drones in operation considering most drones will need a remote ID solution before further use cases are allowed. This is why remote ID is so important. It is one of the key roadblocks for unlocking drone use in the U.S. The challenges are both regulatory and technical in nature. As regulations are made, the demand for technology will follow. I think we are close to a solution in both respects.

Ques: There are various technologies, such as ADS-B and cellular-based technologies, which are being currently tested as a remote ID solution. So, how do you see these solutions in different regions?

Ans: ADS-B faces some challenges. The standard was developed for manned aviation, and there may be issues allowing it to scale to the needs of millions of unmanned aircraft. There is also a perceived risk by mixing the ADS-B and cellular-based technology between both manned and unmanned use cases. The technology itself is very useful for broadcasting the position of a drone and has proven beneficial when used This is similar to the use of FLARM in Europe. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have been identified as broadcast solutions in ASTM and have benefits of being compatible with smart phones that could receive the position broadcast directly without having additional equipment required by ADS-B and FLARM.

Remote ID will need to be a performance-based requirement to allow flexibility in implementation. UTM may be the most efficient way to outfit a drone with remote ID. There would be no hardware to purchase, only a subscription to a UTM system would be needed. The UTM would make drone location information available to law enforcement. In addition, UTM operations could be viewed without having a ground observer nearby.