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Google sister drone company Wing upset about proposed Remote ID rules

Wing, the drone-deploying, sister company of Google, is not happy about the FAA’s proposed Remote ID rules.

The company took it a step further by writing an open letter (signed along with a few other major drone industry stakeholders) to the Federal Aviation Administration outlining issues with the Remote ID rules, and changes they’d like to see made. The tl;dr of Wing’s open letter: the FAA’s proposed Remote ID rules are too costly and burdensome, especially for drone hobbyists.

“The proposed rule will make it nearly impossible for everyday hobbyists to share the skies,” according to the letter. “They will need to incorporate highly automated equipment into home-built models and implement manufacturing processes comparable to a commercial aircraft. These requirements are infeasible for hobbyists who experiment in their garage, buy material at the local hardware store, and fly in their backyard or the local park.”

Remote ID is essentially a system of creating license plates for drones, but instead of physical plates mounted on the drone, there would be an electronic system where drones digitally transmit their information.

The letter was sent to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson on Friday, and signed by Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess as well as other major players who’ve had a hand in the drone world, including Sean Elliott, Vice President of Advocacy and Safety at EAA; Chris Cooper, Sr. Director of Regulatory Affairs at AOPA; and Richard D. Hanson, President of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

Remote ID is one of the hottest topics in the drone industry this year after the FAA released its drone remote ID proposal in December of 2019. The AMA (which signed the letter) quickly came out against the Remote ID proposal, saying “it would seriously disincentivize participation in the model aviation hobby.” Others, like Wing and DJI, also came out with their own statements about Remote ID. At the beginning of 2019, Wing put out a now-removed post on blogging site Medium saying that it supported the ASTM International standard for Remote ID, while suggesting changes for the FAA’s proposed remote ID rules.

“While Wing agrees with the objectives of the FAA’s NPRM, the proposed rule poses some challenges as drafted. The ASTM standard can help to address some of these challenges, and Wing looks forward to providing detailed public comments to the FAA as part of the rulemaking process,” Wing’s earlier post stated.

The letter writers did issue some solutions for the official Remote ID rule, including:

  • allowing hobbyists to notify the FAA (and others on the ground) of their planned flight area via a smartphone app
  • allowing organizations such as clubs or schools to renew and establish new ‘identification areas’ over time, pre-vetted by the FAA.

The letter writers pointed out that as of today, drone operators can (and successfully do) fly in controlled airspace around our busiest airports by notifying their planned flight area to the FAA through apps, such as Kittyhawk or AirMap.

“The FAA should be applauded for digitizing these capabilities in an accessible way,” the letter stated. “That approach is safe, smart, and sensible, and could apply to remote identification.”

View the entire open letter from Wing, the AMA and others here.

Wing played a part in penning the letter, but they have a bigger role to play in shaping Remote ID than just that. In May 2020, the FAA announced that they had selected eight companies to “weigh in on the technological requirements around implementing an electronic license plate system for drones.” Wing was one of them, alongside other big companies including Airbus, Intel, Amazon and T-Mobile.

While the FAA has clearly stated that “these companies are not part of the decision-making process for the proposed Remote ID rule final rule” and are simply there to help the FAA develop technology requirements for other companies to develop applications needed for Remote ID, the participation of those companies means they’ll have some sort of hand in shaping the future of Remote ID.

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