A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official in charge of the agency’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) office told senators today that FAA is fast-tracking its efforts to launch a rulemaking that would establish remote identification requirements for drone aircraft.

Earl Lawrence, director of FAA’s UAS Office, said at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security that development of the remote ID requirement for drone aircraft is vital to greatly expanding the use of larger and heavier UAS craft, and the safe integration of drones into the U.S. national airspace.

Asked by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the subcommittee, about the need for the remote ID requirement, Lawrence said standardized remote ID technology for drone crafts “helps tie the drone to the operator” and helps other aircraft avoid drones in flight. The remote ID requirement will extend to drone craft that are flown beyond the line of sight of their operators, Lawrence said.

Lawrence told Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., that it will be difficult for the United States to establish global drone craft technology and market leadership unless a remote ID requirement is put in place.

“Everything hinges on that,” Lawrence said, because all aircraft need to identify themselves “if you want large scale UAS operations.” He added, “we need universal acceptance” of a remote ID requirement and associated network requirements.

Pressed by Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., on the timing of an FAA rulemaking proceeding on a remote ID requirement, Lawrence declined to provide a firm estimate, but said his office is “working as fast as we can to put together a rulemaking.”

In advance of launching a rulemaking, FAA has been testing out ideas for the remote ID requirement and has begun work on developing a computer system for it.

Tester said at today’s hearing that the eventual size and impact of the UAS industry in the United States “can be as big as your imagination,” and asserted that the sector’s growth and influence could rival that of Facebook.

His enthusiasm for the UAS sector was generally shared by other senators at today’s hearing, who cited the usefulness of drone operations for delivery services both in the commercial realm as well as emergency response and disaster relief applications.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.