this just came in an email update from RDQ regarding the new rules and some still incomprehensible in the wording but at least its something more solid to explain and or work by for now.
So why would someone do standard ID as opposed to module ID?
Standard has better privacy. Kinda. Standard id requires transmission of session id or serial number while module ID is only serial number. If you have different session IDs, it would be difficult for non-government actor to determine all the flights were the same aircraft. If I was stalking you, I would identify your serial number and then try and identify where you fly. I perceive as time goes on some wardriving apps will aggregate the serial numbers on maps similar to this SSID map. https://wigle.net/map Remember your drones will be transmitting on the same frequencies as Wi-Fi just like all of those little SSID blips are on that map.
For broadcast module ID, why can’t the FAA allow session id as opposed to only serial number broadcast which allows tracking? It seems like it would be trivial to create a unique session ID that would be generated for every flight from a private key and make sure the FAA always had the private key to be able to associate public sessions IDs with a unique registration. Think 2 factor authenticators. The FAA may be intentionally NOT doing that so as to force people over to standard ID who are privacy sensitive.
Beyond Line of Sight. Broadcast module ID does not allow for beyond line of sight flying.
Doesn’t the new rules cause havoc for the FPV community since you have to fly within visual line of sight in the FRIAs or with module ID? If a FPV flyer was wearing goggles, how could the drone be within line of sight? They have goggles on ya know!
To answer this, we need to go back into history to understand the FAA’s evolving view of “within visual line of sight” and “able to see” to understand what is going on here.
For many decades model aircraft flew under Advisory Circular 91-57. The FAA started applying the Federal Aviation Regulations to unmanned aircraft and their view on things was evolving.
In 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed which created Section 336 that protected model aircraft from being regulated by the FAA. The FMRA defined model aircraft as “flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft.” P.L. 112-95, section 336(c)(2).
In 2014, the FAA issued a model aircraft interpretation explaining how they thought you should do things, “Based on the plain language of the statute, the FAA interprets this requirement to mean that: (1) the aircraft must be visible at all times to the operator; (2) that the operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft; and (3) people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Under the criteria above, visual line of sight would mean that the operator has an unobstructed view of the model aircraft. To ensure that the operator has the best view of the aircraft, the statutory requirement would preclude the use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model. reducing his or her ability to see-and-avoid other aircraft in the area. Additionally, some of these devices could dramatically increase the distance at which an operator could see the aircraft, rendering the statutory visual-line-of-sight requirements meaningless.” This is all before Part 107 became a law. The FAA was applying the regulations of the time, 91.113 which has a “see and avoid” requirement, to unmanned aircraft because the FAA believed that the FMRA’s “rulemaking prohibition would not apply in the case of general rules that the FAA may issue or modify that apply to all aircraft[.]” like Part 91’s regulations.
In 2016, Part 107 came out with Part 101 subpart E. Part 107 allows FPV flying under 107.31 and 107.33. Here is where people get tripped up. Section 107.31 says: (a) With vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, the remote pilot in command, the visual observer (if one is used), and the person manipulating the flight control of the small unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to: . . . . (b) Throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft, the ability described in paragraph (a) of this section must be exercised by either: (1) The remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system; or (2) A visual observer.” (Emphasis mine).
In 2018, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 hit the delete button on Section 336 and replaced it with now 49 USC 44809. This caused issues seeing that Part 101 subpart E was still on the books, but Section 44809 overruled it. Most recreational flyers desire to fly within the exception for limited recreational operations listed in 49 USC 44809 which says in (a)(3), “The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.” (Emphasis mine).
In 2019, the FAA cleaned things up by withdrawing the 2014 model aircraft interpretation which said FPV flying with goggles can’t see and avoid.
On 12/11/2020, the FAA withdrew Part 101 subpart E as a regulation because it caused confusion and was overruled by 49 USC 44809 which came from the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
CURRENTLY, you either fall into 49 USC 44809 which is for a very narrow group of recreational flyers (not all recreational flyers) or you fall into Part 107 which is for non-recreational flyers. That’s it. Remote ID in Part 89 applies to all unmanned aircraft, with some exceptions. All FPV flyers over 250 grams, flying in the national airspace of the United States, will have to do broadcast module remote ID, standard ID, fly in a FAA Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). FRIAs are granted only to recognized Community Based Organizations or educational institutions. Your backyard, friends’ yard, local park, etc. are most likely NOT going to be in a FRIA so FPV flyers flying a 250+gram drone are stuck doing standard ID (SID) or broadcast module ID (BMID).
Broadcast module ID allows for retrofitting aircraft but BMID has requirements:
For 107.31, there is the ability to see by taking off the goggles and see the unmanned aircraft. The ability is primarily a distance and human capability number. The larger the drone, the further away you could fly. The smaller the drone, the shorter the distance you could fly it away. Now 107.31(b) says the ability must be getting exercised by the RPIC or VO. Section 44809 and Part 89 do not have any such exercising of the ability requirement, just the ability.
In the area where the FAA discussed visual line of sight in the preamble of the final rule, it said, “FAA Response: As noted, the FAA has determined not to adopt a definition for ‘visual line of sight’ in this rule. The FAA recognizes that the concept of visual line of sight allows for variation in the distance to which an unmanned aircraft may fly and still be within visual line of sight of the person manipulating the flight controls of the UAS or the visual observer. The FAA believes this is appropriate given the performance-based nature of current UAS regulations.” (Emphasis mine). The ability to see the drone is what limits the distance you can fly away. Ability determines distance.
If we read part 89 and 107 to be harmony, Part 89 does not restrict FPV racers from using goggles as long as the person manipulating the controls is “able to see the unmanned aircraft at all times” and keeps the unmanned aircraft “within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.”
The FAA used “visual observer” multiple times and it’s not clear. Is the mention of the term visual observer indicate that there is this 2 person requirement to do FPV flying?
49 USC 44809(a)(4) says, “The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.” (Emphasis mine). It does not say “and a visual observer.” Please also note you can’t somehow use a VO to “daisy chain” the drone out further because 44809(a)(4) says the VO has to be “co-located and in direct communication with the operator.” For Part 107 flying, 107.31 & 107.33 would apply and prevent daisy-chaining further out.