Sunday, January 16, 2022

Remote ID intrigue

Our recently added anonymous news tips line has started to work!

This dropped in recently and it appears to show, well I will let you draw your own conclusions.


I am writing in response to the Government’s “Brief For Respondents” (No. 21-1087) and a number of what I believe are false statements.

I worked on Remote ID rulemaking. On page 28 the government wrote:

“When the FAA convened the cohort, the agency clarified that ‘the FAA’s recently released FAA NPRM for Remote ID will not be discussed…’” and reiterate a similar sentiment on page 42.

However, FAA had determined and advised employees that their work was intertwined and related.

In fact, Jennifer Ambrose ([email protected]), a member and regular attendee at almost all rulemaking meetings and Ms. Casey Nair ([email protected]) who attended somewhat regularly and provided substantive feedback to the rulemaking team) were founding members of the Cohort and proposed it to the rulemaking team as a way to develop network remote ID while sidestepping APA rules on ex parte communications.

Ms. Ambrose signed the pleading for the government, so I don’t know why they were not upfront with the court. The FAA’s goal was surveillance and to appease security partners.

Early on, the Air Traffic Organization shared with the rulemaking team ex parte communications with NATCA – NATCA and their controllers would have zero interest in even seeing drone traffic and hence it would have little to no safety value.

As for Page 48, they indicate that FAA conducted a demonstration. ASH (Security and Hazardous Materials Safety) AXE-U00 under Acting Manager Elizabeth Soltys ([email protected]) was heavily involved in the rulemaking and meeting with law enforcement to identify acceptable Remote ID tools to surveil operators.

In that role, FAA used the FAA Reauthorization Act §383 to identify drone detection systems and methods to test them. ASH met with vendors – both for the systems and “red team” drones and understood that private commercial vendors were to conduct the demonstration on behalf of FAA.

We worked on a demonstration of drone detection systems, to include broadcast RID type systems. ASH was feeding information to the Remote ID rulemaking team and the Remote ID rulemaking team was keenly interested in a potential demonstration.

Senior FAA leadership (the Associate and Deputy Associate Administrator and Director level), who had to sign off on the rule before it could reach the Administrator’s desk, were aware and appeared to believe such a demonstration would help understand security partner concerns relating to drone identification and Remote ID.

On page 32 the government states:

“Petitioners’ additional Fourth Amendment arguments lack merit. Petitioners contend (Br. 22-23) that the Remote ID rule contemplates an unconstitutional search of the curtilage of an unmanned aircraft system operator’s home because the rule purportedly provides access ‘to monitor and store the exact location details of drones and drone operators who are at their homes.’ The rule does no such thing; the rule requires only that unmanned aircraft systems broadcast certain location information from takeoff to shutdown—not at all times—and the rule does not provide any specific information regarding an individual’s home or the surrounding area.”

I witnessed what I considered “pervasive and far-reaching surveillance,” (Page 30). For example, DFW owns an Aeroscope system, mounted on the airport hotel.

They had an unwritten agreement with the FAA tower to provide information regarding airspace incursions.

A summary of the system and how Broadcast Remote ID was used after the incident as if it was exigent, is in FAA hands.

Furthermore, FAA was provided unlimited access to the Aeroscope system data, which has an extensive history and identified drone flights within LOS of DFW, including drone flights from what appeared to be residences (the system correlates the location to a map).

Janet Riffe (LEAP, [email protected]) and David Lincoln ([email protected] and sometimes [email protected] on email chains) are your best contacts for these.

There is a similar set-up with the network of Aeroscope’s in Massachusetts, which is how the April 2019 incident was solved. A warrant was issued, apparently based solely on Aeroscope, and the teenage operator’s home was identified.

FAA and LEAP were briefing up to the Administrator due to the national news attention it received. FAA has the warrant, police report, and some of the results of that data.

It deliated the efforts, but identified no state crime. In fact, my impression what that FAA effectively deputized local law enforcement to act as additional enforcement personnel from the FAA. The Rulemaking team was highly concerned about lack of enforcement resource.

The FAA was ecstatic to see how RID could be used by local law enforcement to surveil citizens, even at their homes and retrieve stored data that was collected without a warrant.

I also believe Sabrina Sanders-Hodge ([email protected]) in AUS or her team were in contact with DJI and sharing information on the rulemaking with them.

Related to this incident, the government states on page 31 “but the rule itself ‘does not speak to the use of information by law enforcement agencies or how remote identification data will be correlated with other law enforcement data.’”

FAA has an understanding with DJI and upon request from the FAA would provide all relevant data they had, if the operator owned a DJI and/or operated with a DJI app.

The rulemaking team was aware that Remote ID was just a step in the chain – RID gets the serial number, and they or local LE can get the serial number from DJI to track down the operator. This was common practice at the time, conducted by ASH’s LEAP agents.

The Remote ID rulemaking team on these “accomplishments.” It appeared to be considered favorably by the rest of the Rulemaking team (based on my reading their body language), and in fact was frequently and directly used to assuage concerns of security partners.

Jennifer Ambrose brushed aside concerns about the Fourth Amendment – she decided a comment in the preamble would suffice to put people on notice of forced collection of their personal information.

Of note, FAA intervened in both matters well after the situation had resolved but treated as exigent, so I personally question whether many in the FAA understand the exigent needs exception to a warrant, as discussed on page 34.

I wish Brennan and his attorney luck on their case!

Gary Mortimer
Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.