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  • 18 Sep 2023 5:36 PM | Anonymous

    Article by Joe Vacek

    We’re trying a reconfiguration of our former newsletter/journal, which will be a shorter piece delivered to you monthly instead of quarterly. This month, I’ll kick it off with a comment relevant to anyone whose client operates drones: The Remote ID Rule.

    Drone Operator

    FAA now requires anyone operating a drone to broadcast a “digital license plate” via Remote ID technology installed on the drone. Despite the rule’s effective date being delayed by the FAA and by litigation last year in BRENNAN V. DICKSON, 45 F.4TH 48 (D.C. CIR. 2022), the requirement is on track to be in force on September 16, 2023. That means all drone operators will need to be compliant to operate in the National Air Space, outside special drone-only parks for enthusiasts, otherwise known as “FRIAs.”

    New drones come with the required hardware and software installed to be compliant. Older models need to be retrofitted, and the cost is not unreasonable--spending between $100 and $200 will purchase a module that can be easily added to an existing drone and is compatible with US, Canadian, and EU remote ID requirements. They do add a bit of weight (1-2 oz) and power consumption, which will slightly reduce the drone’s performance or endurance.

    Make sure your clients know about the requirement and are compliant, as willful non-compliance can result in FAA enforcement actions beyond a compliance action, up to and including revocation and civil penalties.

    Personally, I have wondered how FAA will detect and locate a non-compliant drone, since one not broadcasting its “digital license plate” is essentially running dark. I would suggest acknowledging this with your client, along with a reminder that compliance is generally cheaper than paying you in an enforcement action!

    The BRENNAN case mentioned above was a facial challenge to the rule’s constitutionality; the DC Circuit held that there was no 4th Amendment violation in requiring drone operators to broadcast a “digital license plate” because they were operating in public airspace. The Court left unresolved however the question of whether low altitude airspace--airspace that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided belongs to the landowner--is navigable or not, and whether FAA has regulatory authority over that low altitude airspace. Until that issue is ripe and decided, even drone operators flying down low right over their own field must comply with Remote ID.

    A longer version of this in law review format is available at

  • 15 Sep 2023 3:18 PM | Anonymous

    I've been a member of ALA (formerly IATSBA and the NTSB bar association) for about 15 years. I was most recently the VP for Great Lakes region, and I am located in Grand Forks, ND. I'm best known for my work in drone law at the University of North Dakota.

    Over the past 3 years, our organization has been facing some headwinds--declining membership, a hiatus in our newsletter, and having to cancel a conference and postpone another due to the pandemic. I'm confident we can adjust our throttle settings and get back on course. We're actively working on all of those now, and I'm thrilled to invite you to our Nov. 1-3 conference in Washington, D.C., where we can reconnect and get back to business! Please register as soon as you can and invite your friends and colleagues. It's going to be a great event, with a catered dinner at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on Nov. 2!

    One of my goals as president is to seek new members. As you may know, the University of North Dakota offers the nation's only formal certification in aviation law by a law school, and plans to open it up soon not only to all law students in the US but also to practicing lawyers to obtain the certificate, using remote teaching technology. I plan to explore a potential agreement between UND’s certificate program and ALA, creating a pipeline for new members to enter our organization from the certificate program. I would appreciate the assistance, wise counsel, and help from all interested members of our bar association to get it going.

    university of north dakota shool of law building

    I'm looking forward to reconnecting with you in Washington, D.C. in November, getting a regular newsletter into your inboxes, and watching our membership roster grow! And of course I'm interested in hearing your ideas. Please feel free to call me at 701 885 2486 or email me at Thank you,


    Photo of Joe Vacek

Originally founded in 1984 as the National Transportation Safety Board Bar Association, today’s Aviation Lawyers Association (ALA) has grown to comprise attorneys from across the United States and other parts of the globe.

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