In this webinar, we gathered Skyward and Verizon policy experts to break down the FAA’s proposed rule for remote identification (Remote ID) of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS, or drones) and answer the industry’s top questions.

Watch the recording and read the transcript below. You can also click here to download the presentation slides.

Webinar Transcript

Jessica Moody  0:00  

All right, good morning and good afternoon everyone, and welcome to this webinar on Remote ID and the FAA’s recently released notice of proposed rulemaking. I’m your moderator, Jess Moody, and I’m joined by two incredible panelists with a lot of information and insight to share on one of the most talked about topics in the drone industry today. We know that this rule and its implementation will impact all of our users, and Remote ID is a foundational element of Universal Traffic Management, and necessary to unlock some of the most advanced use cases like beyond visual line of sight.

We’ve gathered some of your top questions and we’ll do our best to leave time at the end to take even more questions. If we don’t have time to get to your question today, rest assured we’ll be sending out responses to the most asked questions during this live event in our follow up materials. We’ll also be sending you a recording of this webinar, so feel free to share it with colleagues or your industry friends.

So I want to introduce our panel today. As I mentioned, I’m Jess Moody, and I’m the Director of Marketing and Communications here at Skyward. We’re also joined by Dave Lincoln, Manager of UAS Strategic Initiatives at Skyward. Welcome, Dave, and tell us a bit more about yourself.

David Lincoln  1:19  

Good afternoon, Jess. Thank you. I am Skyward’s Manager of UAS Strategic Initiatives, and I’m based out of Northern Virginia. I come most recently from the FAA and have almost 20 years of combined Navy active and reserve service, most as a prosecutor. I entered the drone industry in 2014 and was outside counsel for a major test site and taught drone law at a law school here in Virginia.

I help develop and manage Skyward’s strategic vision for advancing the regulatory environment to meet the pace of technological developments in the small UAS industry. This includes things like identifying and pursuing standards for cellular connected UAS as it relates to aviation grade comms and working with Skyward’s customers, partners, and coalitions to improve safety cases for access to the NAS, the National Airspace System, by small UAS. I thoroughly enjoy working on the technical requirements for these complex cases. And just a disclaimer, I do not work for Skyward in a legal capacity.

Jessica Moody  2:17  

Excellent. Thank you so much, Dave. And we’re so lucky to have you at Skyward. We’re also joined by Melissa Tye, Associate General Counsel of Emerging Technologies at Verizon. Welcome, Melissa.

Melissa Tye  2:29  

Thanks, Jess. And thanks to everyone for joining. As Jess said, my name is Melissa Tye, and I’m the Associate General Counsel for Emerging Technologies at Verizon. So in that role, I work to advance Verizon’s federal policy, regulatory, and legislative agendas, and I specifically focus on issues related to next gen networks like 5G, as well as the Internet of Things. My IoT work includes connected vehicles, smart cities, and of course, drones. So I’ve been at Verizon for about five and a half years, I held a handful of positions prior to that all in telecom law. I also spent a couple years at the Federal Communications Commission, where I worked on wireless industry issues.

Jessica Moody  3:15  

Excellent. Thank you both, Dave and Melissa. So in addition to our panel, we have a few Skyward team members who will be jotting down your questions in the chat and the Q&A so we can include them in our followup materials. Now remember, if you’re in the chat, you can talk to the entire audience and even to each other. If you’re in the Q&A, and you want everyone to see your question, make sure you pick “panelists and everyone.” If you send it just to panelists or a specific panelist, not all of us will be able to see it.

So we’re going to launch a poll. To get started, we want to just understand: how familiar are you with the Remote ID NPRM? You can select, you’re unfamiliar with the Remote ID NPRM. You’ve maybe read about the NPRM and have some questions. You maybe read all 300-plus pages, and you’re familiar with the concept, but maybe have some questions about how it could impact your program or organization. Or we might have some experts on here: you’ve read the NPRM, you’ve already submitted comments to the FAA, and you really understand the rule.

So let’s start out with a few foundational basics so we’re all on the same page before we get into the details of the proposed rule. First of all, an NPRM is a notice of proposed rulemaking, “proposed” being the key word there. In a federal agency like the FAA, if they want to change, add, or remove a regulation, they issue an NPRM to let the public know what the proposed changes are. The public then has a period of time to weigh in on the proposal. This is what’s called the comment period, where anyone can submit comments letting the agency know what they think. This helps ensure that the agency doesn’t create rules in a bubble, but rather has the benefit of the input and insight of different constituencies. It also helps ensure that the public is aware of what sort of regulations our agencies are considering so that people aren’t necessarily blindsided by a new regulation that they feel kind of came out of nowhere.

So what is Remote ID? Well, the core purpose of Remote ID is to provide the identity and location of a drone in flight, ideally to both regulators and operators. It’s frequently referred to as a digital license plate for drones. Remote ID in the NPRM will require a drone to share information electronically and require certain elements to be publicly available. Ideally, anyone will be able to know where drones are operating in the area. And in the case of an emergency or a security risk, the operator can be identified. It’s the first step towards Universal Traffic Management, or UTM, a system of systems capable of managing every aircraft in the sky. Yes, the FAA envisions UTM to be only Unmanned Traffic Management, but we believe drones should be integrated into the NAS, or National Airspace System, and managed alongside crewed aircraft.

So what’s in the proposed rule? As we said, Remote ID is basically a digital license plate for drones. And what the proposed rule does is lay out how that will work, who the rule applies to, what information needs to be included, how it will be conveyed, and a timeline for implementing the rule. Your basic who, what, when, where, and even a little bit of why.

First up, who. The rule puts obligations on both UAS manufacturers and UAS operators. The proposal would impose some form of Remote ID requirements on all UAS in the United States, with a few exceptions. First, drones that don’t have to be registered. That is, drones that weigh less than 0.55 pounds, or of the US Armed Forces, don’t have to have Remote ID. Additionally, drones that are amateur built or manufactured before the compliance deadline can operate in approved airspaces designated by the FAA without Remote ID. And lastly, drones built for certain types of research, and UAS of the federal government can also operate in those designated airspaces without Remote ID and can also operate without Remote ID if the FAA gives them special permission.

So now let’s focus on the what. Let’s put the exceptions aside and just focus on what’s required of those drones that do have to have Remote ID. The rule proposes dividing drones into two segments: standard Remote ID and limited Remote ID. The big difference between the two is that standard Remote ID drones will have the eventual ability to fly beyond the line of sight of the operator, while limited Remote ID can only be flown within 400 feet of the operator. Because limited Remote ID drones will be near the operator, they have to provide a bit less information.

But the biggest difference between the obligations of the two is how they provide that information. Standard Remote ID needs to transmit Remote ID information over both broadcast as well as cellular connection. Limited Remote ID drones, on the other hand, only have to transmit over cellular. We’ve been hearing about the different categories of drones after implementation: standard, limited, and also no Remote ID. Dave, what’s the difference between all of these?

David Lincoln  8:57  

Thank you, Jess. So the standard Remote Identification UAS, it transmits the required message elements that the FAA has identified in the regulation to what is called the Remote ID USS, or UAS Service Supplier, through an internet connection. Now how you get to the internet is not defined in the rule, and it also has to broadcast the same message elements over radio frequency spectrum — basically out into the air. So as you see in our picture on the left, we show both that the UAS is transmitting, and we use the Bluetooth signal. But again, it’s not limited to Bluetooth. We chose a recognizable broadcast symbol, but those message elements would also go to the internet and then to the USS, depicted by the cloud.

Now you see the limited Remote Identification UAS in the middle block would be required only to transmit the information through the internet. No broadcasts would be permitted, but the unmanned aircraft cannot travel more than 400 feet from the ground control station. And I want to note that the terms “broadcast” and “transmission” are specific terms defined by the FAA. So if you use either of those terms, then “transmit” is through the internet, “broadcast” is over the air.

And finally, on the right hand column, the FAA has identified a non Remote ID category. Those would be only permitted within FAA approved areas, which are called FAA Recognized Identification Areas. The FAA expects that by the time that a rule is fully implemented and operators need to Remote ID that the vast majority of UAS will fit into the standard and limited category. And there would be required message elements, but the USS could add additional elements pursuant to their business models and agreements with customers, but those wouldn’t necessarily be public. And finally, this applies only in the National Airspace System. This does not apply to indoor operations, these three categories.

Now in order to make sense of the proposal, it’s helpful to consider why they’ve set up this three-tiered structure. So the standard Remote ID UAS will be a part of the safety cases allowing drones to fly further from their operators. But we believe the safety cases required to support such operations will require redundancies, including Remote ID. On the other hand, the FAA adopted the ARC recommendation, the Aviation Rulemaking Committee recommendation for Remote ID, that 400 feet is a reasonable distance to associate the UAS in the air with its operator on the ground. So you see in this limited category, that’s why the UAS cannot go beyond that 400 feet, which appears to be primarily so that law enforcement or regulatory regulatory authorities, if they see a drone up in the air, they can associate it with an operator and take the safety or security procedures they have to take given if there’s an inappropriate operation.

Back to you, Jess.

Jessica Moody  12:04  

And in addition to that, then we need to talk about when: when is this implemented and the timeline. So there are a few things to note on timing. Regulation for Remote ID has been years in the making, and we’re excited to see it moving toward becoming a reality. Now the NPRM was announced and comments were opened on December 26th. The comment period is closing on March 2nd. So if you haven’t submitted comments, but would like to, you do have a few more weeks. There have already been over 15,000 comments submitted.

Even after the comment period closes, we have a way to go before Remote ID will be fully implemented. We don’t know when the FAA will publish a final rule, but it’s likely at least a year away or even more likely two years away. After the final rule is published, it will go into effect in 60 days. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to have Remote ID 60 days after the rule is published, it just means that the clock starts ticking on the timelines that are in the rule.

There are two major timelines in the rule. The first is for UAS manufacturers. And the rule requires that all UAS manufactured two years after the rule takes effect have to be Remote ID capable. The second important timeline is for operators. Six months after the manufacturer deadline, all operators must be in compliance in the US. At this timeline, we expect to see Remote ID fully implemented in the US no sooner than 2023.

Melissa, can you tell us more about the timeline?

Melissa Tye  13:47  

Sure thing, Jess. So, one aspect of the proposal that’ll probably get a fair bit of attention is the timeline, as many in the industry feel that it’s just longer than necessary. So first, it’s important to note that the FAA has said that until Remote ID rules are done, they’re not moving forward on rules that would allow advanced operations like flying beyond line of sight or operating over people, flying at night, etc. So until then we’re just we’ve got the Part 107 system that we have now, where to do any of those advanced operations requires a specific application and permission from the FAA. And as I’m sure a lot of you know, getting that authorization is no small undertaking.

Most of these advanced operations are what makes drones an attractive business opportunity. So having to wait until 2023, or 2024, until those can really happen at any sort of scale is not quite what industry had in mind. So furthermore, Remote ID is, at its core, a safety and security solution. And as we all know, drones are already out there flying. So delaying Remote ID means delaying a safer and more secure airspace.

And then additionally, given the technical readiness of Remote ID systems, many in the industry believe that a much shorter timeline, like 12 months, is feasible. Now the FAA bases its timeline that they proposed in the rule using a series of cost benefit considerations. However, their analysis doesn’t really consider all of the benefits, which is some of the cost savings for industries that could use drones, or cost savings as a result of the increased safety.

On the other side of it, the FAA’s calculations of the cost of Remote ID seems to overvalue at least some of those costs, such as retrofitting or the expected cost of Remote ID service. So I do expect that there’ll be a fair amount of comment on the timeline, and we’ll have to see what the FAA does with that.

Jessica Moody  15:39  

All right, thanks, Melissa. It’s really interesting to see how this will take shape and the timelines involved in it. It’s definitely not something that’s going to happen immediately.

So let’s talk about the purpose of Remote ID. Remote ID has really three main purposes: one, safety; two, security; and three, enabling complex operations. So let’s start out with safety.

Dave, how does Remote ID increase safety for the public or the National Airspace System?

David Lincoln  16:14  

Well, absolutely, the FAA is a safety organization, and aviation safety depends upon situational awareness. Here within the manned aviation community it’s been called “see and avoid,” being able to see what’s out there and avoid it. That has evolved into “detect and avoid” as we move into the modern age.

The FAA believes Remote ID will increase its ability to identify operators and hold non-compliant operators accountable. So, that’s the first aspect. It’ll also allow manned aviation participants to identify UAS in the vicinity of their aircraft or facilities. And finally, as I was mentioning, you know, increase the detect and avoid capabilities for the remote pilot in command of the actual UAS, who can have access to tools for identifying other UAS in the area around them. So it’s not an end all to the safety case, but it certainly supports it.

Jessica Moody  17:11  

Excellent. And, Melissa, how does Remote ID help with security, with the second purpose?

Melissa Tye  17:16  

Sure. So safety and security are pretty closely related or entwined, and US national security interests have been closely engaged on Remote ID. And it’s not really surprising that they have an interest here. Similar to what Dave said about safety. There’s a big security interest in knowing what’s happening in the sky and making sure that whoever or whatever is in any given airspace is there for a legitimate purpose.

Now obviously, if an operator does have nefarious intent, they’re probably not going to say so through Remote ID. But similar to a car driving without a license plate or an ice cream truck approaching the Pentagon at 1 a.m., Remote ID will offer a tool that can help law enforcement identify when something just doesn’t seem quite right. Then they can figure out what the best steps are from there.

Jessica Moody  18:08  

All right, and Dave, what about enabling complex operations? What types of operations are enhanced by Remote ID, and why is Remote ID an important building block for these complex use cases?

David Lincoln  18:21  

Absolutely, Jess. This was the third reason that the FAA gave for the case for this rule, the FAA’s vision for Remote ID. It’s not a comprehensive detect and avoid solution like I alluded to earlier, nor will it immediately enable those complex operations, but it is a critical component those safety cases, because you can see what is around you to a greater extent than you can today.

For example, the operations over people NPRM, which is pending, and the FAA has stated it’s pending completion of Remote ID for one reason. This sort of goes between both safety and security, but it is how you enable a complex operation like ops over people. Security personnel, including federal and local law enforcement, as well as security personnel at stadiums where people gather or amusement parks, parades, or other venues where you can imagine there’s concern about unidentified drones over their facilities and their crowds, especially given some of the news reporting overseas. And fortunately, we haven’t seen that here, but it’s certainly on their minds. You know, it’s concerning, and allowing and requiring identification would provide some relief to them, that they know who was operating over them.

So I think this is one of those balances that you’ll see the FAA looking toward as it implements the authority to conduct more complex use cases. The other ones are, for example, beyond visual line of sight, higher altitude operations, and urban air mobility, all of which require a greater level of detect and avoid capability, the ability to see what’s around your unmanned aircraft so you can operate as safely then as occurring under your current Part 107 rules, where you have to stay within visual line of sight and you’re in a relatively low level altitude that’s more isolated from the rest of the NAS.

So, aviation grade detect and avoid and command and control solutions, including those enabled by LTE and 5G and multi-access edge computing, they will be a benefit for those complex operations and the Remote ID will help along with these technologies for the pilot in command to have a greater visibility of what’s going on around him and the tools to move toward more complex operations.

Jessica Moody  20:49  

Excellent, thank you both. So let’s talk about Remote ID in action. Skyward and others have already demonstrated technical readiness for Remote ID. Along with a working group of other drone companies, we successfully demonstrated network based Remote Identification of drones with the InterUSS platform. This demonstration included seven drones flying use cases including infrastructure inspection, delivery, and recreational flights. The drones flew in close proximity while safely following ASTM Remote ID protocols. In the demonstration Skyward simulated a beyond visual line of sight, or BVLOS, infrastructure inspection flight, with a drone flown directly over Verizon 4G LTE for the duration of the flight. Connecting drones to the wireless network facilitates the sharing of information critical to the safe integration of drones into the National Airspace System, especially for the complex operations of the near future which will demand safe autonomous BVLOS flights.

A little bit more on this demo: it took place in controlled airspace near San Francisco International Airport, and it featured participants from Verizon, Skyward, Wing, Uber, AirMap, AiRXOS, ANRA technologies, CNN, Kittyhawk, UASidekick, and Flite Test. Permission to fly in controlled airspace was obtained via LAANC, the FAA’s low altitude authorization and notification capability. Skyward is one of 35 entities from industries and regulatory agencies working on standards for Remote ID and tracking. The ASTM standards were developed before the NPRM was published, but tracks closely with the performance requirements of the NPRM. We believe it meets the spirit of the FAA’s efforts and identifies technical means to implement the FAA’s vision for Remote ID. Industry is ready to finalize implementation once a rule is issued.

So I know we’re getting a lot of questions, and we got a ton in advance of the webinar. So we’ve compiled your top questions to address before we move into the live Q&A portion. And I know this is a really complex topic, and there may be a lot of questions about exactly how this might be implemented. Some of that we may not be able to answer today. But we will compile any questions we get and compile our top questions and send those answers out to you in our followup materials.

I also want to remind listeners that we are recording and we’ll be sharing this webinar after it concludes. We also have more content on Remote ID and other drone industry topics of interest at skyward.io/resources.

So Dave, we talked about this a bit already, but can you talk a little more about the difference between network and broadcast Remote ID?

David Lincoln  23:50  

Absolutely, Jess, and thank you for that point, that we are trying to hit the high points. This is a complex rule and a lot of complex technical aspects to it. So we’re doing our best to summarize it in this brief webinar.

I did address this a little bit earlier, but to provide a little more detail: the network Remote ID, it is what it says. It provides a more comprehensive network by transmitting message elements to the Remote ID USS via the internet, although the means to accessing the internet is left to the operator and the rule doesn’t define what that means. It most likely will be through wireless networks at fixed sites, cellular connections in all but the most rural areas, or by other means.

The USS will collect data and share it pursuant to technical terms yet to be identified by the FAA through its impending work with the Remote ID cohort, which is discussed in the rule. This is being formed in response to the RFI that came out — the request for information on Remote ID the FAA sent out in December 2018, and they do have a Remote ID for industry. If you Google that, there’s a page that has the FAA’s most current information that they’ve released regarding this process.

So, broadcast Remote ID will be message elements sent directly by the UAS out into the surroundings. And the FAA expects that this will be non-proprietary elements so that anyone can access it, in that anyone whose cell phones or the other common electronic devices that can, receive a signal. So like we said, it could be Bluetooth, it could be Wi-Fi — although you’re thinking more of a small Wi-Fi network set up by the drone, and it’s not connected to the internet at large necessarily, so there is a distinction there. And that’s why again, we chose that Bluetooth symbol, even though it’s not limited to Bluetooth. And again, this signal is limited by line of sight and other typical considerations with RF such as interference, clutter, whether physical or electronic, especially in urban areas.

So why are some groups in favor one or the other? Network Remote ID provides a more comprehensive mechanism, because as long as the unmanned aircraft has access to the internet, anyone with internet access will be able to access the message elements, which we understand will be anonymized, though, and provide only that required for aviation safety.

So I know that’s a critical concern people have: their privacy. And you know, there’s a tradeoff of operating in the NAS just like driving a car. You have a license plate, but it appears the FAA has been cognizant of protecting PII, the personally identifiable information, about operators. Broadcast does have the benefit of operating anywhere, even when there is no internet access, but again, the signal is limited by line of sight and does not provide the universal aggregation of data. That can be done with network Remote ID that’s required for a comprehensive understanding of the airspace.

And I believe this addresses at least a couple of the questions that were coming in on the forum. So I hope that answers that question.

Jessica Moody  27:17  

Thank you, Dave. And that’s a good segue into our next question, which is: how will Remote ID work in rural areas without cell coverage? Melissa? Can you speak more to this?

Melissa Tye  27:31  

Sure thing, so right. An obvious challenge, as it were, with requiring network Remote ID is that while a network like Verizon reaches over 98% of Americans, even our network doesn’t reach every inch of land in the US, and neither does any other carrier. So frankly, there has to be a way for Remote ID to work in areas that don’t have cell service.

Now, like Dave said, the proposed rule doesn’t actually say that you have to use cell service. Obviously, being Verizon, we believe that cell service is a good solution. But I haven’t heard of a lot of other proposed solutions for a network capable of Remote ID. And there’s only so many nationwide networks that have built out a wireless network. So how the FAA addressed the issue of well, how is Remote ID going to work in areas that don’t have cell service or don’t have other internet connectivity, wireless internet connectivity is that. With standard ID, if you don’t have a cell connection or you don’t have an internet connection, that’s fine, and you can go ahead and fly as long as your broadcast connection is still working. So if you do have a network connection, you do have to use it, but if you don’t have a network connection, that’s okay. Go ahead and fly just using broadcast.

But keep in mind again, that’s just with standard Remote ID. With limited Remote ID, you can only use a network connection, and so if you don’t have a network connection, you can’t fly.

Jessica Moody  29:24  

All right. Thanks, Melissa. So, on the next question, we got quite a bit in advance. Dave, a few of our customers that represent small businesses were concerned about the cost. How do you anticipate the cost of compliance to be distributed across users, manufacturers, and service suppliers?

David Lincoln  29:43  

Yes, Jess. You know, that’s a really good question. And absolutely, that’s a concern on everyone’s mind. The FAA isn’t proposing any costs that have to be imposed on operators. What the business models will be and how manufacturers or USS will implement Remote ID is yet to be determined.

And honestly, I don’t think anyone will have a solid answer until the FAA gets through the cohort, as they’re referring to their Remote ID for industry process in response to that RFI. But certainly we are confident that the models of LAANC and manned transponder tracking will be similar to that seen in Remote ID: push by market competition and demand will most likely provide varying levels of service based on the level of detail needed and willingness to pay.

And at least to a few of the questions, I’m trying to keep track of some of the big ones. I think, again, this is a critical point: there’s a lot of ways that this could happen. I saw someone mentioned satellite as a way to connect to, to the internet. I mean, certainly that’s not precluded by the rule. But again, I think we’re focusing on some of the more economic and scalable methods. It’s yet to be seen, but at this point, I don’t think the technology will support an economical deployment of satellites. But, you know, we might be surprised.

So, you know, there’s a lot of unknowns. But again, we expect that there’s going to be an incentive across the board for Remote ID to be implemented. Certainly, the FAA is expecting it won’t be overly costly.

And so, absolutely, I think this is, to a couple of the other questions as well, the broadcast first network, there’s a lot of discussions going on in that. And again, the broadcast, we have to be careful that any particular use case or test of a broadcast system, the same broadcast signal that might go a mile or two in a rural and flat environment might go 100 yards in a city. It’s hard to generalize on this. So hopefully we’re answering those questions, but we have to keep in mind that a lot of this is use specific.

Jessica Moody  32:07  

Thanks, Dave. So, um, oops, skipped ahead one. Melissa, some of our users are concerned about data security and privacy. Will the operator and drone information be available to the general public?

Melissa Tye  32:24  

So like Dave said, the FAA has given consideration to privacy concerns, and one of the ways the rule addresses that is by allowing operators to use session ID rather than the drone registration ID. So the session ID would be the number that gets transmitted as the Remote ID information. And a session ID is just created by the USS for a limited time use, and in the case of information to the public, isn’t tied to any of the registration information for the drone. So in addition to session ID or the drone serial number, so in addition to that ID number.

The Remote ID information also includes position of the control station and aircraft, altitude, and time mark. One caveat there is that with limited Remote ID only the control station location information and altitude has to be transmitted. You don’t have to transmit the location information for the drone itself. But given that you’re going to be within 400 feet, there’s not a big difference between the two.

So the Remote ID message that’s transmitted is the same for both the public and law enforcement. So you’re sending out the same information, and the same information that the law enforcement has access to from Remote ID, so does the public. But the one caveat there is that law enforcement will be able to link that Remote ID information to the drone’s registration information which contains you know, the operator name and address, etc. So law enforcement will have access to that additional information, but the public won’t be able to link the Remote ID information to the registration information.

So Verizon definitely understands, the FAA understands that there are privacy concerns with this. But again, as Dave touched on earlier, you know, flying in the airspace involves tradeoffs, just like a lot of other activities that we undertake on a daily basis, like driving a car.

And one consideration that’s worth making is that moving forward with advanced drone operations and industry scale isn’t just a matter of convincing the FAA that the necessary safety and security protocols are in place, but it’s also a matter of getting public acceptance for drones. If there’s a groundswell of public opposition to large scale drone operations, the FAA, or more likely Congress, is likely to put the brakes on the industry. So one way to help the public feel more comfortable with drones is with transparency, and that is giving them some ability to know what’s happening in the airspace around them.

So while we understand the privacy concerns, I do think it’s helpful to keep in mind that the industry has got to be willing to give and take a bit in order to move forward.

Jessica Moody  35:32  

Okay, thanks for that clarification, Melissa.

And our last question that came in in advance was: will Skyward provide Remote ID services? Dave, can you address this?

David Lincoln  35:46  

Absolutely. So I think I alluded to it earlier, but to reiterate again — this is very important — is that we will support Remote ID for our customers when the rule goes into effect. We intend to participate in whatever model the FAA adopts to the extent they approve us to operate, just like we have with LAANC. And since it is our goal to enable safe and legal operations in the National Airspace System, we intend to continue that trajectory.

Jessica Moody  36:18  

Thanks, Dave.

So for those of you that are unfamiliar with Skyward, we wanted to share a bit more about our company and services.

Skyward started out as a software company, but today we’re a lot more than just software. We help companies and public agencies use drones to gather critical, actionable data quickly, safely, and efficiently through four service offerings.

Aviation management platform for complete operational oversight, fast access to controlled airspace with LAANC, flight logging, in-flight tools, and post flight analysis. We offer professional services for proof of concept development, creating the general operating manuals, standard operating procedures and checklists, online and in-field training for your specific use cases. We can also fast track a small program to complex operations through waiver support and regulatory engagements. In aircraft and hardware, we sell the latest equipment accessories to help our customers speed up the procurement cycle by getting your drones, iPads, batteries, and necessary equipment all in one place. And we support complex use cases like BVLOS or delivery. We know that they require safe and reliable technology.

As a Verizon company, we have access to the most reliable cellular network and we can work with your organization to test and deploy drones connected over 4G LTE and 5G. We’re actually standing up aviation development centers with our initial facility located in Hillsboro, Oregon, and Portland, Skyward’s hometown. We’re also standing up remote operations teams to support connected aviation operations nationwide. Our aviation development centers are where our customers and partners can come to test connected drones and advanced use cases with aviation and conductivity experts at Skyward and Verizon.

We know that the companies we work with are committed to safety, transparency, compliance, and their own bottom line. We developed the Skyward platform specifically to make it easy for enterprises to manage drone programs, even very complex ones that are safer, follow regulations, accessible to company stakeholders, and have high ROI. Here you can see just a few of the enterprises we work with. We chose to highlight these entities because they are among some of the most complex and sophisticated drone programs. Companies like these are always helping us innovate and get better.

The Skyward Aviation Management Platform connects your people, projects, and equipment into efficient workflows that include digital airspace access to controlled airspace with LAANC, flight planning and logging, checklists, operational oversight, and stakeholder transparency. It can get out of the office and into the air with field tools and office tools for streamlined operations.

So I’d just like to take a quick poll. Please let us know if you’d be interested in speaking with a Skyward business consultant about any of the following: our aviation management platform, professional services, hardware procurement, aviation development centers, connected drone strategic partnerships. You can also select any that apply, or if you’d like to speak with us on anything else, just select other, and we’ll reach out. Specifically, if you have additional questions on this NPRM or would like to speak with us in more detail about that, we’d love to hear from you directly.

Skyward will also be attending a few upcoming events, and if you or your team will be there, we’d love to talk with you. First up, if you’re in the utility and energy space and attending TechAdvantage you can visit us at the Verizon booth. In May, we’ll have our own booth at AUVSI Xponential in Boston and also be participating in several panels. So stay tuned for that for more details. And we would love to connect with you at the FAA Symposium in Baltimore, another really great place to dig down into some of these policies and answer some of your questions or concerns.

So just our last poll, will you be at the following events, please check any that apply. And if you are going to be at something that isn’t listed here, go ahead and tell us in the chat or just shoot us a note at contact@skyward.io. We always like to know where you’ll be, where we can connect with you in person and discuss some of these industry hot topics.

So I’m going to go ahead and open up the Q&A. We got quite a few questions in. So I’m going to start with one of the earlier questions here for Dave. I’m flying agricultural fields in rural areas with limited or no internet connection, and this person asked, “Can I fly under standard?”

David Lincoln  41:12  

So if you have no internet connection, then yes, you could fly under standard, because if you look at the requirements for standard, if internet is not available at the commencement of the flight, or if you lose the internet halfway through the flight, you are allowed to take off or continue the flight respectively there. So that would allow you to continue as a standard Remote ID UAS.

I hope that answers the question.

Jessica Moody  41:41  

Okay. And Dave, and this is related and you definitely touched on it. But if you might be able to elaborate more on why the internet connection? Why not just broadcast capability?

David Lincoln  41:53  

Yeah, so the, again, we’re looking at this idea of a comprehensive picture of the airspace. And that if you have the Remote ID USS, this information can be aggregated and immediately, the critical information can be accessible by authorities. Again, pursuant to privacy requirements and data handling procedures, and there’s requirements for cybersecurity. So I don’t want people to think that all their data is going to be just out there. But you know, just as in manned aviation, where one can look at transponder codes as long as they have access to the internet, you won’t have to have a special tool or special app to go out and read the broadcasts signals in the air. What this is, what we believe is being able to really enable those complex operations because you don’t you won’t be constrained by line of sight anymore, which is one of the biggest drawbacks of the broadcast, in our opinion.

Jessica Moody  42:51  

Absolutely. Thanks, Dave, and I just wanted to take a moment to kind of remind everyone of the timeline. We’ll be sharing, of course, the slides, and you’ll be able to see more information on that timeline. But as Melissa shared with us, the earliest potential that we see as having Remote ID requirements and having Remote ID implemented so that operators are required to use it to be Remote ID compliant would be 2023. So it’s several years out at a minimum.

And as soon as we do get a finalized rule from the FAA, we’ll know that that clock starts ticking for the 24 month and 36 month requirements for manufacturers and for operators. And we’ll definitely be sharing more information about what this means for you, how to comply, and what that looks like, because we’ll have a finalized rule then, as well as we’ll know exactly when the timelines will kick in and exactly what date this will be required. So I know there’s a lot of concern around the timeline and I wanted to make sure that I really emphasize that.

Dave, this is another question for you on the relationship between the DAC, the Drone Advisory Council, and the NPRM. So this person wrote in, “Is the DAC (the Drone Advisory Committee) involved with this NPRM? I believe a lot of fixed commercial operators never fly beyond property lines could benefit from FRIA certification and not limit FRIA to AMA sites.” So that’s kind of two questions: is the DAC involved, and then it sounds like this person also has positions they would like to share on the FRIA, so if there’s any more information you can share an either of those, that would be helpful.

David Lincoln  44:40  

Yes, Jess. So the DAC, I’m not aware of any formal relationship between the DAC, so the Drone Advisory Committee and the actual rulemaking process. And in fact, I believe they’re technically separate, although I don’t, I can’t tell you exactly what the relationship is. However, what I think the critical element here is that the Drone Advisory Committee, it’s set up as a group of professionals and well-regarded people within the drone field to provide input to the FAA on important topics. So, you know, to the extent that the Drone Advisory Committee has issued formal reports, you can expect that a rulemaking references the Remote ID ARC, would be able to take into account that information. And certainly that appears to be the purpose of the DAC.

Now as to the FAA Recognized Identification Areas. That’s one of the sections that, since Skyward focuses really on the enterprise and the commercial industry, we didn’t include that necessarily in great detail in our talk. But as written, it appears that would be limited to groups like the AMA or other community-based organizations that apply. But also at one point in the rule, the FAA says they do expect that number to go down as more UAS Remote ID. Now, I know there’s particular organizations that are commenting on that rule, since it applies in much more gravity to them than it does to us.

So, I hope that answers the question. And, you know, again, it’s just not something that is of great concern to our customers, but we do think that it’s certainly an important topic that must be refined as the rulemaking process goes through, just like everything else in the rule.

Jessica Moody  46:40  

And Melissa, anything you wanted to add on that on DAC and NPRM, or the special areas?

Melissa Tye  46:46  

No, thanks, I think Dave summed it up pretty well.

Jessica Moody  46:49  

Perfect. So another question that came in was: how will the NPRM stop the rogue operator that doesn’t follow the rules anyway? Dave and Melissa, either of you want to take that one?

Melissa Tye  47:05  

Sure, I can go ahead. I mean, so, right. If you’re a rogue operator and you’re not following the rules, there’s nothing that the FAA is proposing here that would prevent a rogue operator from taking off or anything like that. Basically, this is a way of allowing law enforcement and then the public to have a sense of who’s in the sky, and if anything seems amiss to take further action.

So the digital license plate analogy is a good one because it’s similar that, if you’re driving down the road, and you don’t have a license plate, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re up to no good, but it’s definitely cause for the police to investigate further. And I think this is similar to what Remote ID will do. And it’s not even necessarily that if someone’s not on the Remote ID system — but kind of like the example I gave previously about an ice cream truck approaching the Pentagon. If there’s a drone flying around the Pentagon, and it says that it’s from a utility company based in Idaho, that raises some red flags. So again, this is more about law enforcement having a better sense of what’s going on up there. And then they can use their own experience and expertise to determine what raises red flags, what needs to be investigated further, and how best to respond. Does this raise such red flags that they want to respond in a very sighted way, or do they want to approach with a little more caution? Does it seem like it’s someone who’s the clueless and the careless, so to speak?

Jessica Moody  48:56  

Okay, thanks. Thanks, Melissa.

So another question that came in, kind of on the privacy topic and information sharing topic, and this person noted correctly that global companies must comply with GDPR regardless of physical location. Are these rules GDPR compliant? Dave, can you speak to that?

David Lincoln  49:20  

Sure, Jess, thank you. So the rule itself doesn’t address GDPR, or probably more importantly to this audience, CCPA, the new privacy law out in California. But you know, Verizon, as the parent for Skyward, it has a very comprehensive privacy program and approach, and it generally takes the conservative route to privacy. And we’ll share that, not only do we comply with all applicable privacy laws, whether it’s GDPR or CCPA, but that we will continue to protect customers’ privacy to the high standard Verizon and Skyward has throughout their existence.

Jessica Moody  50:02  

Okay, thanks for that, Dave.

Another question on kind of on the topic of ADS-B. Dave or Melissa, I’ll have this for either of you. If ADS-B isn’t the mechanism to communicate position information, how is this data to be shared to benefit local aircraft and aircraft traffic?

Melissa Tye  50:25  

Dave, you wanna take that one?

David Lincoln  50:27  

Sure. So you’re asking how the Remote ID data gets to the manned aviation community?

Jessica Moody  50:33  

Yeah, I believe that’s the intent of the question. And if you are listening, and this was your question, and that was not your intent, please go ahead and give us more information on what you wanted to know.

David Lincoln  50:41  

Honestly, I think, whichever way it goes, I think it’s the way that the ruleset is set up right now, if the manned aviation community wants access to the Remote ID data, it wouldn’t be like you have an integrated system as far as we can tell. But again, there’s nothing precluding that if a company wanted to develop an integrated system and get it certified through the FAA.

I think right now what’s sort of envisioned by the rule is that someone in the manned community who wants access to this information would be able to pull this data up on a separate program, or there’s an API to pull it into whatever program they already have up and running. There’s a number of mechanisms to do it. And quite honestly, we’re just not far enough in the implementation process to really know exactly how that’s going to play out.

Jessica Moody  51:36  

Okay, thanks, Dave.

There were a few other questions that came in, some of them on the specifics of how this is going to work. We want to make sure we don’t make any assumptions because this rule hasn’t been finalized yet, or speak to anything that might be inaccurate. So we’re going to go ahead and add some of those to our followup materials and answer them as best as we can, because we certainly don’t want to give anyone any misinformation.

I do want to, again, remind people that the most optimistic, the soonest timeframe for this going into effect would be 2023, and that the comment period is still open until March 2. So if you do have information, thoughts, anything regarding this rule that you’d like to share with the FAA, you can do that directly through the comment mechanism.

And so that does wrap it up today. I want to thank Dave and Melissa so much for coming in and sharing some of your expertise. I know this is such a hot topic and a really important topic for our listeners here. And a reminder to everyone: we will be sending out a recording and more information, and you can certainly count on us to be producing more content, more materials, as we learn more from the FAA. And as the rule is finalized, we’ll certainly be giving you more information on what compliance looks like for you and the timelines as we get further into the process.

So thanks again everyone, and as we like to say around here, onward, upward, and Skyward!