The Federal Aviation Administration this week announced a new group of eight companies that would together weigh in on the technological requirements around implementing an electronic license plate system for drones. Those companies are:
- One Sky
- Skyward (a drone fleet management company acquired by Verizon)
- Wing (the drone arm of Alphabet, the company formerly known as Google)
The companies will “assist the Federal government in establishing requirements for future suppliers of Remote Identification,” according to a memo released this week from the FAA. “Remote ID will enable (drones) to provide identification and location information while operating in the nation’s airspace.”
Remote ID is one of the hottest stories in the drone industry this year. The FAA released a proposal for Remote ID last December — but a lot of vocal drone industry players didn’t like it.
Concerns with the proposal included a point that said drones had to fly with some sort of network connection (which might be challenging in remote/rural areas where connections are limited). Others worried that increased costs of implementing remote ID would be passed on to small businesses or individual pilots — which might be prohibitively expensive.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics launched a coalition to fight for a different FAA remote ID rules. Even Wing, which is on the new Remote ID group, came out with some suggestions to change the FAA remote ID proposal.
“While Wing agrees with the objectives of the FAA’s NPRM, the proposed rule poses some challenges as drafted,” Wing said in a memo.
The eight companies announced this week were chosen as part of a December 2018 RFI (Request for information), in which the FAA announced they were seeking private companies to participate in research and eventually demonstrations of Remote ID for drones at work. RFIs are fairly standard practice in the FAA, which has a history of seeking help from private companies or universities to submit their own information, research and data on various topics and eventually building products based on public-private partnerships (such as the FAA’s Know Before You Fly app, which is actually maintained by a startup called Kittyhawk).
And two of the companies on that list — AirMap and Wing — have a head start, of sorts. AirMap, Wing and Kittyhawk got together back in December 2018 at the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, Calif. to test a system of identifying drones that share their flight information.
Each of the three companies flew their own drones for various purposes (i.e. Wing conducted a drone delivery) — and each of the drone operators successfully knew which of the other drones were flying nearby.