Last week in a unanimous opinion, the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the FAA’s 2021 Remote ID Rule, finding the Petitioner’s various constitutional and procedural claims without merit. Remote ID requirements, akin to requiring a “digital license plate,” are widely supported by industry as an essential stepping stone to the expanded use of drones in U.S. airspace. In essence, Remote ID will allow drones to be identified while airborne, greatly enhancing safety and security of drone operations. The FAA’s Remote ID Rule requires operators to have Remote-ID equipped UAS by September 2023.
In this case, the Petitioner’s challenges to the Remote ID Rule were primarily focused on concerns that Remote ID technology could allow the government to carry out continuous surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Other claims included procedural claims alleging the rule was arbitrary and capricious, among others.
In dismissing the facial challenge, the Court found that drone operators do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when flying aircraft in US airspace, and likened drone activity to driving cars on public streets. The court found that the rule did not violate the Fourth Amendment for several reasons, including that the mere capability of surveillance did not amount to a violation, that the nature of drone operations are not constant/widespread enough to violate existing electronic surveillance precedent, and that the information was only accessible by the FAA (not the public or law enforcement). For these reasons, the Court found there was no invasion of privacy, but reserved judgement on any future “as-applied” challenges.