Appellate Court Ruling Supports FAA’s Remote ID Rules for Drones

August 1, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
Appellate Court Ruling Supports FAA’s Remote ID Rules for Drones
A drone.

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court decision Friday will allow greater tracking of privately owned drones whose presence is growing in the sky nationwide — sometimes unwanted.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., affirmed the Federal Aviation Administration had a right to require technology on drones that allows them to be remotely monitored for location and ownership.

A retailer of components for the remote-controlled aircraft sued to block the FAA’s rules, saying in his lawsuit they represent “warrantless governmental surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

The plaintiff, Tyler Brennan, was referring to Remote ID equipment, which the FAA calls a “digital license plate.” It allows anyone within range of local radio signals to monitor drones if they use an appropriate app.

The FAA says Remote ID will help law enforcement agencies find the controllers when drones are flown unsafely or in no-fly zones.

The agency has given drone manufacturers, like DJI, until Sept. 16 of this year to comply with rules to install Remote ID. Drone operators must comply with the rules by Sept. 16, 2023.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling written by Judge Cornelia Pillard said that “drone pilots generally lack any reasonable expectation of privacy in the location of their drone systems during flight. A ‘search’ for purposes of the Fourth Amendment occurs when government action infringes a sphere an individual seeks to preserve as private and the expectation of privacy is one society considers reasonable under the circumstances.”

The appellate court issued its decision about a week after flights at Reagan National Airport were halted for a half-hour when a drone was spotted near a runway. It was one of several unauthorized drone flights reported near airports regionally and nationwide in recent months that interfered with air traffic.

The owner of the drone at Reagan National Airport was not located or identified.

The Arlington-based Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International issued a statement agreeing with the court’s ruling.

“Numerous industries are relying on drones for their operations, and significant industry growth is expected in the years ahead,” the statement said. “Accordingly, the FAA issued a Remote ID rule that appropriately advances drone integration in a way that increases safety for all airspace users.”

Officials for the Arlington-based Consumer Technology Association said the ruling affirms the government’s sovereignty over U.S. airspace.

Tom can be reached at [email protected] and @TomRamstack

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