Official Consortiq Comments for the NPRM of Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Consortiq

Consortiq’s mission is to help organizations utilize UAS safely through consultancy, training and innovation. Our executive training and consulting team collectively has over 40 years of flying, 20,000 commercial hours, and over 10 years in the civilian UAS industry. We believe that it is particularly relevant to point out that many of Consortiq’s staff have experience as first responders (fire and police services) as well as Air Traffic Control administration.

Our global team includes instructors and consultants who have developed and executed UAS solutions for European, African, North American and South American federal and state government authorities. Consortiq has also worked with large energy producers, security organizations, economic development programs and many large private aviation companies as well as UAS operators and end users.

Consortiq was chosen as a steering committee lead by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to analyze and establish best practices, codes of conduct, training standards, and professionalism for UAS operations. Consortiq was then selected as an early adopter Training Provider for the Trusted Operator Program (TOP® ). Additionally, Consortiq was awarded first place for the AUVSI Xcellence Award in Education and Training at
the 2018 Xponential Conference.

Consortiq believes that our unique and trusted position in the UAS industry allows us to understand the real world requirements and consequences of integrating UAS into the National Airspace System. Consortiq further understands that the technological, logistical and administration aspects of such an undertaking will be challenging and will likely require adjustment and refinement as the system is implemented and applied. For this reason we understand that the system will not be perfect when implemented however all efforts should be made to identify and alter requirements that will obviously and unnecessarily adversely affect safety, efficiency, and privacy.

The following points are considered by Consortiq to need additional consideration. Where applicable we have outlined suggestions for mitigating the envisioned complications or obstacles.

Safety

First and foremost Consortiq understands that Remote ID has a place in ensuring the continued proven and exceptional safety record that UAS has in the NAS. It is well accepted that UAS have operated in the NAS as recreational and commercial craft for more than 50 years with very few incidents.

We do acknowledge that as “drones” have become cheaper and more available, more have been reported to the FAA as being flown recklessly or illegally, however the vast majority of these reports are unconfirmed and an even larger majority did not cause any confirmed damage, injury or interruption of activities whatsoever.

Knowing the above, it is absolutely understood that additional control and administration methods are needed as UAS numbers increase and are implemented for more uses in day to day life. However, a glaring omission in support of remote ID as it supports increased safety is a publicly available risk assessment that details the regulatory impact and the sound science that supports the proposed new regulation.

In fact, the analysis of all currently available data related to UAS operating in the NAS supports the conclusion that there is no safety case for implementing remote ID. In short, the NPRM does not provide information on any incident that remote ID would have prevented. Keep in mind, individuals that engage in malicious activities will purposely not follow regulations that will hinder their ability to complete their task.

Regardless of any regulation or enforcement, equipment will always be available to permit users to operate a UAS that does not comply with a remote ID requirement. Remote ID will absolutely not affect the ability for a bad actor to use UAS for malicious intent.

Privacy

As proposed, the remote ID requirement will put the RPIC of a UAS at personal risk every time they are piloting. The ability for anyone, public and law enforcement, to locate and therefore approach an RPIC while they are in control of a UAS will subject the RPIC to at least distraction, and at worst physical harm. It is well known that the majority of the public do not understand the uses and capabilities of UAS. There are many documented instances of UAS operators being confronted by members of the public that incorrectly assume the RPIC is using a UAS to violate their rights. Spying, and trespassing are two of the more common misconceptions.

Then add in the public’s ignorance about what is and is not allowed as it related to the NAS, and there are many reasons a member of the public may incorrectly assume they have cause to confront an RPIC while they are piloting. Requiring a UAS to broadcast the RPICs current location in a format that the public can easily access will certainly lead to more confrontations and incidents.

In addition to the risk the public can pose to an RPIC, there are equal concerns as it relates to law enforcement having instant access to the RPICs location. It is absolutely understood that there are circumstances that will require law enforcement to locate an RPIC, however this should be related to an actual public safety or law enforcement action. This should not be allowed simply because a law enforcement officer is “curious”.

Other than the obvious distraction approaching an RPIC while piloting will cause, there are many documented instances of law enforcement taking improper action towards UAS and RPICs because of ignorance of FAA and related UAS regulation.

As an example, arresting an RPIC for trespassing while piloting from their own property and flying their UAS in uncontrolled airspace because they flew over other property. Then add the additional unlawful ordinances that many municipalities are passing that infringe on the FAAs exclusive right to regulate the NAS, and this can expose RPICs to unlawful detention, search and seizure risks.

If a broadcast solution is required, it should be one that broadcasts a unique identifier with no human readable information. That identifier, just like a vehicle registration license plate, could be “seen” by the public and provided to the FAA or law enforcement should they think there is a violation occurring. Law enforcement should have immediate access to the information from an online portal or contact number if they can articulate an immediate law enforcement or public safety need.

If there is no immediate need, they can request the information to be provided for future contact (IE: not immediate contact which would distract the RPIC while in operation). A critical part of the above is mandatory training and education for the law enforcement agency before they gain access to the system. Additionally, jurisdictions that has unlawful ordinances or a history of attempting to supercede the FAAs sole ability to regulate UAS in the NAS, should not be allowed access to the system until the unlawful ordinances are removed.

An additional concern with broadcasting information such as a serial number etc in a readable
format is that this information could be collected, stored, shared and even cloned. Think “wardriving” but for UAS. Not only would this be an issue for compiling personal and possibly sensitive information about the UAS and operator, but the information could provide bad actors with information on the points of interest UAS are being used to document. Even if the point of interest isn’t a sensitive location, being able to identify locations of high UAS activity could be an issue.

As many of these UAS range from a couple thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, how long will it be before “UAS-Jacking” is a thing? Then add in additional payloads (sensors or deliveries) and giving bad actors easy access to where they can find these UAS at any given time is just a bad idea. Also, think about the ability to take this broadcasted info and clone it onto another UAS. Bad actors could operate their UAS illegally and implicate other RPICs. This wouldn’t be like a stolen vehicle license plate where the owner would know the plate is missing and report it stolen.

In a public broadcast system, the RPIC would have no idea their information was being collected and possibly used for nefarious intent. Current similar systems such as DJIs Aeroscope have already gained the attention of hackers for manipulation for use as a form of activism and for obfuscation.

Efficiency

Finally, we feel that the proposed rules as written will hamper development and innovation of the use of UAS as well as increase the cost of operation. Focusing first on the financial aspect of this topic, it is important to understand that the vast majority of operators are either recreational or small, one-person commercial operations.

As far as recreational pilots are concerned, many of these people own multiple craft, most of which are simple R/C airplanes that have no autonomous ability. Having to pay to register each of these craft every few years as opposed to one registration as it is now, is going to be overly cumbersome. Then add the requirement to only fly these types of craft at an approved CBO FRIA, which will require paying a fee to the CBO (AMA etc) as well as the site membership fees, and this can easily double (or more) the cost for the hobby. The vast majority of recreational pilots have been flying their craft for decades on public and private property in a manner that have not interfered with manned operations. Much of the time they are flying lower than the surrounding trees and structures.

Even a recreational pilot that wants to fly their small craft in their own backyard, under a tree canopy 3 feet off the ground will be in violation under the proposed rules. Additionally, adding an additional device to a legacy craft does not seem to be allowed by the proposed rules and even if it does, would require additional expense. It should also be noted that these rules would have a negative impact on STEM programs that utilize UAS in their curriculum.

These programs already struggle with budgeting and cost and adding additional fees or requirements will certainly hamper the ability to get youth involved in the UAS technology. US government agencies should look for ways to promote and facilitate programs such as STEM.

The proposed rules as written will do the exact opposite.

In synopsis, we fail to see how this proposed remote ID solution will increase safety or further UAS integration into the NAS. There has been no assertion that had this proposed solution been in place, it would have prevented a previous incident. Further, there has been no assertion that the proposed solution will allow any increase in situational awareness for manned aircraft as it relates to UAS deconfliction.

It seems at best the only result of this proposal will be an overall reduction of UAS (commercial and recreational) being flown, and at worst, a false sense of compliance that will promote the use of UAS without following the new regulation. Simply put, the thousands of commercial and recreation UAS operators that find compliance overly burdensome and in some cases impossible, will continue to operate outside of the new regulation. With the dispersed and sporadic nature of UAS operations, enforcement, even with an unrealistic budget for additional manpower, will not be possible.

Consortiq respectfully requests the FAA re-evaluate the requirement of a remote ID solution.

This should begin by completing a risk assessment to accurately identify the problem, followed by soliciting input from the actual operators affected that addresses the actual risks identified.

  1. Academy of Model Aeronautics https://www.modelaircraft.org/radio-control
  2. FAA UAS Sighting Report
    https://www.faa.gov/uas/resources/public_records/uas_sightings_report/
  3. Remote ID: The Unintended Consequences
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/remote-id-unintended-consequences-john-fernandez/