Last month marked the first meeting of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS” or drones) Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”). The ARC brought together key stakeholders to discuss regulatory issues relating to UAS ID and tracking, air traffic management for drones, and local enforcement concerns. Drone identification and tracking systems could help the FAA and the UAS industry pave the way for more flexible rules, including UAS operations over people and beyond visual line-of-sight. 

The FAA created the ARC to develop solutions and standards for the remote identification and tracking of UAS in flight. The ARC membership includes a broad range of aviation and UAS industry stakeholders, including, but not limited to, the Flight Safety Foundation, Amazon PrimeAir, ALPA, AOPA, airport authorities, telecommunications companies, and UAS manufacturers.  The complete list of members is available here.  The ARC will explore available and emerging technologies to identify and track UAS while taking into account security and safety concerns for the public, and consider technical solutions to address the needs of law enforcement and air traffic control authorities.

The UAS industry have already initiated similar efforts. Drone manufacturer DJI proposed that the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (“AUVSI”) use an electronic ID framework for small drones.  Companies such as AirMap and DigiCert offer digital solutions to remotely identify and verify flying UAS.  Once operators register their drones, they receive a digital drone ID certificate and an aircraft identity number that can be loaded on the UAS and shared with other operators and airspace information platforms.

The ARC is one of FAA’s tools to continue the safe integration of drones in the national airspace system while responding to the UAS industry push for more flexible rules. Other similar efforts include the Drone Advisory Committee and the Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team. The ARC will meet again in July and is expected to submit its recommendations to the FAA by the end of October 2017.