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Product of the JMA iLAB small-Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) & UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Working Group 

March 2020 

Introduction 

JMA Solutions, LLC (JMA) through its research and development enterprise, JMA Innovation Lab (iLAB), submits these comments in response to the request for public comment for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) notice of proposed rule making action in regards to requiring remote identification of UAS. 

The accelerated growth of sUAS technology, its wider availability and growing use case portfolio has led to the adoption of sUAS by many entities, including public safety agencies, state and local governments, commercial entities and recreational flyers. Given the accelerated quantity of UAS available and flying, and questions surrounding how they can be safely integrated into the national airspace system (NAS), FAA’s efforts to propose rules on the development, deployment and regulation of remote identification in UAS is necessary. 

JMA has been a leading contributor to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) efforts to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System. JMA’s work has involved leading practices in air traffic management, UAS Traffic Management (UTM) policy, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) guidance, Safety Management System (SMS) development, and both internal/external communication strategies to safely and efficiently integrate UAS into the NAS. 

JMA iLAB’s public comment for the FAA’s Remote ID notice of proposed rule making is based on the aforementioned FAA air traffic management and UAS experience. In addition, JMA iLAB members have collaborated with a broad spectrum of UAS stakeholders through participation in several standard setting bodies, including CANSO, Drone Responders Public Safety Alliance, the ANSI UAS Standardization Collaborative, the National Public Safety Telecom Council, InfraGard and International Emergency Drone Organization. 



Member

ATFM WG
UAS Emerging Tech WG
UAS/UTM Task Force

 Advisor

Drone Responders Public Safety Alliance

 Member

ANSI UAS Standardization Collaborative (UASSC)

 Member

National Public Safety Telecom Council UAS & Robotics WG

 Chair

InfraGard UAS Integration into Critical Infrastructure WG

 Member

International Emergency Drone Organization

 

 

In 2019, JMA iLAB published a white paper for the public safety community titled “Application, Implementation and Management of sUAS by Fire Rescue.” Subsequently, JMA iLAB published an article in a leading fire service publication, Fire Rescue 1 magazine, called “Eyes in the sky: How firefighters can use drones during all-hazards incidents.”

The implementation and justification of remote ID for UAS is very often, and accurately, compared to that of license plates on automobiles. In this case all vehicles must be identifiable by entities including, but not limited to, law enforcement and regulatory agencies. Owners must register vehicles with a motor vehicle authority in their state of residence in order to receive a license plate, which then connect vehicle owner information to that identifier (license plate). This information is relatively well kept private and normally only accessible to law enforcement. 

Unmanned vehicles should also have an identifier announcing their presence to law enforcement, regulatory authorizes such as the FAA and other participating sUAS. Therefore, owners of specific drones should register each aircraft and have a unique identification attached to them. This is the basis for development of a UAS Traffic Management System. 

Problems and Challenges Addressed by Remote ID 

Public safety, national security and law enforcement concerns involved both the existence of two groups of aircraft operators, bad actors and unknowing actors. Bad actors wish to intentionally and negatively impact the safety and security of the homeland. In contrast unknowing actors unintentionally, through lack of technical skills or regulatory knowledge, negatively impact the safety and security of the homeland. Both require immediate attention and an appropriate official response. 

For example, during the course of several emergency responses to structural fires and natural disasters requiring the deployment of traditional aircraft, the presence of unidentified UAS have led to grounding of such air assets. This has negatively impacted rescue or suppression operations. The operators of those drones were likely unknowing actors, not realizing the significant consequences of their actions. In other examples, mysterious drone sightings have been reported over cities, with calls to law enforcement. Not having the ability to identify the purpose of these flights creates a general feeling of insecurity in communities. Remote ID adoption would allow authorities the ability to identify operators and when appropriate inform or deliver consequences. 

Bad actors may intentionally weaponize drones or simply use dangerously close flying to cause severe interruptions. There are arguments to be made that the history of drones in the United States does not point to any major breaches to national security or safety. While this is true, it does not mean that the potential does not exist. A failure of imagination was cited by the 9/11 Commission as one of the failures in preventing that attack, where no one had imagined airplanes would be hijacked and used as missiles flown into important sites. The intentions of bad actors cannot be mitigated with remote ID. However, the ability to identify assets in increasing complicated airspace through broadcast with the added possibility to connect a drone with a bad actor operator is a valuable tool for law enforcement. 

Questions to consider for improvement of the remote ID notice of proposed rule making: How will law enforcement be able to access remote ID data in order to identify drones? How quickly will the data be available? Who will be the ultimate responsibility of remote ID information (which is also shared with third parties)?

Privacy 

While there are many questions on privacy and the use of drones, remote ID and the proposed rule making does present some new aspects of privacy protection. Remote Identification UAS Service Suppliers (Remote ID USS) will be tasked with providing the services to maintain registrations and tracking of broadcast or network signals. 

Questions around privacy to consider: What information will be made available to the general public by the Remote ID USS? Will the Remote ID USS host personal and private information on aircraft owners, or will the FAA be responsible? 

Following the comparison to cars and license plates, motor vehicle authorities keep owner information and only make it available to law enforcement and other regulatory bodies with proper cause. Fellow drivers cannot identify the registration information of a vehicle, but simply reading a license plate. In aviation, there is an additional use case that flying objects should be identifiable through use of a transponder or other broadcast signal. This should be the case for other UAS operators looking at a map of active UAS. 

Remote ID as a Next Step 

Remote ID is the necessary next step in the safe integration of UAS into the NAS. It is also the next step required to enable the development, regulation and implementation of other technologies and procedures to further assist safe integration. These include detect-and-avoid technologies, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and UAS Traffic Management.

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