uAvionix president Christian Ramsey is insisting that when it comes to drone remote ID, Bluetooth is a bad idea.
His concern, he says, lies in the dependency on Bluetooth as the concepts in the proposal are based upon the idea first introduced at Open Drone ID, which leverage the Bluetooth ‘advertisement’ messages which can convey a small amount of data without establishing a paired connection like we are used to doing with our headphones or vehicles.
Ramsey explains: “Will it work technically? There are some small-scale demos that have demonstrated the functionality. Will it work at scale in a high frequency use environment like a crowded stadium? I have doubts. Often your phone doesn’t even work in those situations.
“There is a difference between scenario A where your phone is not working and it being an inconvenience to you, and scenario B where you have a national mandate which requires this technology to perform a security function that is designed to protect that crowd. That is likely what we are facing with the FAA’s long delayed RID rule, a mandate for a technology that has no protections in itself.”
However, not wanting to rubbish Bluetooth for what it is without coming up with a solution, Ramsey went on to detail what could be done.
He says: “First start with the right frequency range. For something of this importance, something that is supposed to provide the basis for the security system that all future drone regulations are built upon – how can you not move into Licensed spectrum? It would be reckless to not do so, and if we go this route, we will be backing out of it within a decade and it will be a fiasco.
“Our proposal is UDS-B. That is not a typo – it was not supposed to be ‘ADS-B.’ The idea of an ‘ADS-B like’ solution for drones has been kicking around for years. Of late, the term ‘UDS-B’ has evolved – first probably as a joke – as the acronym doesn’t really play out – but the general message of Unmanned ADS-B is conveyed well. Will it stick? Probably not, but for now, I’m running with it.”
UDS-B uses the FAA authorised protected spectrum which means both FAA and FCC have to approve devices that transmit in this range, and they can approve based on specific operational use. A corollary to this is that it is illegal to transmit in this range if not specifically approved. That isn’t necessarily the case for the ISM frequencies as well.
Ramsey adds: “If frequencies close to existing ADS-B (1090MHz and 978MHz) are selected, then existing ADS-B hardware can be fairly simply retuned to adjust to the new frequency. Existing antennas should work well. You think there aren’t any frequencies available in this range? There will be more on that coming out later. [Spoiler Alert] There are. This opens the possibility to put “UDS-B In” receivers in aircraft, near airports, or develop worldwide crowd-sourced hobby networks too.”
As part of its work to get its new systems widely integrated, uAvionix has recently received approval from the FAA Spectrum Office to develop and test an ‘ADS-B like’ solution for UAS remote ID and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability.