Is your drone flight Remote ID compliant? Here are the 4 types of legal drone flights

While Remote ID regulation technically went into effect in September 2022, it’s not until September 2023 that drone pilots are legally required to abide by the rules and ensure their aircraft is Remote ID compliant.

That one-year lead time gives drone owners sufficient time to actually upgrade their aircraft and actually figure out how to become Remote ID compliant. But come September 16, 2023 at exactly 12:01 a.m., all drone pilots required to register their UAS must operate their aircraft in accordance with the final rule on remote ID.

What is the final rule for Remote ID?

In short, the final rule for remote ID mandates a way that drones must provide identification and location information, which can then be read by other parties. Consider a sort of electronic licensing plate system for drones, with a built-in layer of location information.

Under the new rule, most drones will have to broadcast certain information about itself (such as its serial number) and its operation (such as its current position, emergency status, speed, the controller’s position, and a timestamp).

So as a drone pilot, is it still legal to fly your drone? What do you need to do (if anything) to your existing aircraft to make it Remote ID compliant?

Here’s a breakdown of the four types of legal drone flights under the Remote ID rule (and what you need to do by September 2023 if your drone isn’t currently up to par):

If your drone weighs less than 250 grams (and you only fly recreationally)

If your drone weighs less than 250 grams, good news! You don’t have to do anything. Keep calm and carry on flying.

The final rule on remote ID only applies to drone pilots in the U.S. who are required to register their drones. So which drone pilots are not required to register their drones in the U.S.? That distinction goes to folks flying drones that weigh less than 250 grams.

Drones under 250 grams are kind of a big deal worldwide because many types of federal drone regulations do not apply to aircraft of that size.

The FAA mandates that all drones must be registered, except those that weigh 0.55 pounds or less (less than 250 grams) and are flown exclusively for recreational purposes. In the U.S. that means:

  1. Drones under 250 grams do not need to be registered with the FAA for recreational operations.
  2. Drones under 250 grams do not need to be Remote ID compliant.

That includes tiny drones like the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Autel Evo Nano drone. Even better is these drones tend to be cheaper — most of these drones cost less than $500.

If your drone has built-in Remote ID capability

Most new drones sold in the U.S. from major manufacturers like DJI and Skydio likely fit this bill. Odds are older drones, or drones that are DIY-oriented, typically would not.

If Remote ID capability is built into your drone, that means that — throughout the period from takeoff to shutdown — your drone is broadcasting its unique drone ID, location, altitude, velocity, control station location and elevation, time mark and emergency status.

How do I know if my drone has Remote ID capability built-in?

If you own a drone that already has this capability built-in, it should be fairly obvious through a few avenues. It’ll likely be featured alongside other product specs on the manufacturers’ website (such as on the online shopping page). It might also be printed on the drone itself. For example, DJI models with Remote ID functionality include the notation “ASTM F3411-22a-RID-B” on the regulatory label attached to the drone.

You may have received a notification via your drone’s flight planning tools to conduct a software or firmware update which also enables this capability — and doesn’t require extra hardware. Among the drones that have already offered up these updates include:

If you own a drone that isn’t listed above, don’t panic. First off, this is just a short list of some of the most popular drones. Secondly, more updates are coming — it’s often just taking time for the engineers to build them. The rule doesn’t go into effect until September 16, 2023, so an option to update may be coming.

For example, Skydio said it plans to enable Standard Remote ID compliance for older drone models before the deadline with a software update and label — no hardware modifications required.

DJI has also said that some of its last-generation drones including the P4 RTK and the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, will see a firmware version to make them Remote ID compliant.

If you purchase a new drone from here on out then your drone likely is already Remote ID compliant. Assuming you purchased something brand-new from an authorized retailer (not a used drone sold on the resale market), then your drone likely is already compliant. Manufactured drones produced after Sept. 16, 2022 and operated in the U.S. must be Remote ID compliant, according to the FAA’s Remote ID rule.

DJI confirmed to The Drone Girl that all DJI Enterprise drones introduced to the market after September 2022 are already designed to comply with Remote ID.

If your drone does not have built-in Remote ID capability

If your drone does not have built-in Remote ID capabilities, you’ll likely need a separate Remote ID module which you can attach to your drone (unless you’re flying in an FAA-Recognized Identification Area, which you can read more about below).

This module needs to broadcast the drone’s unique ID, location, altitude, velocity, takeoff location and elevation and time mark throughout takeoff to shutdown.

And even still, these types of drone flights are limited to visual line of sight operations.

If you’re flying in a FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA)

If your drone has neither built-in Remote ID capabilities nor a separate module, and it’s more than 250 grams and/or flown for commercial purposes, you’re not out of options completely.

You can fly a drone without Remote ID capabilities (or aren’t required to broadcast information even if it does have those capabilities) in what’s called a FAA-Recognized Identification Area. These are geographic areas (typically open fields and fairgrounds) that are recognized by the FAA where unmanned aircraft not equipped with Remote ID are still allowed to fly.

Again though, there are some limitations. Drones flying in these areas without Remote ID must operate within visual line of sight. And while anyone can fly there, FRIAs can only be requested by community-based organizations and educational institutions, such as colleges, trade schools and universities.

These tend to be sites like fields owned by flying clubs, model aircraft groups or universities, so link up with a local group to help request more sites. For now, you can’t actually see the approved FRIAS.

However, it seems likely that they’ll align with the existing recreational flyer sites, which are publicly displayed. The FAA has a map through ArcGIS that can be a bit cumbersome to navigate. But, if you click the layer tab and select the boxes for “Recreational Flyer Fixed Sites,” they display quite nicely.

Other exceptions to the Remote ID rule

There are a few other situations where drones might not necessarily be Remote ID complaint, such as drones operated for the military. The Remote ID rule expressly exempts drones operated by the United States military. That means some aircraft designed for these use cases (such as Skydio’s defense oriented drones in the X2D series), are intended to be offline and may not be Remote ID compliant.

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