As we get closer and closer to the September 16, 2023, date and the required mandated Remote ID, we are seeing more and more companies entering the arena of Remote ID modules.
Today we’ll be looking at uAvionox’s pingRID module. As we get our hands on these modules, you will see they are all very similar in their form and function.
That’s to be very much expected as the FAA has made it clear through Part 89 RID_ASTM_F3586-22-NOA-22-01, just what these devices should be doing, and as such, we’re seeing a lot of similarity between them.
One of the first things to stand out about the uAvionix module is that they stepped away from the color black and went with a white module.
As we’ve seen nearly every other module being the same color, the PingRID module certainly looks different than the rest.
The decision to go with a white case serves two purposes, really.
One, it does indeed give this module a completely different appearance from what we’ve seen to date, and, two, it separates it from the rest of the modules we’ve seen.
The other benefit is that if you were to drop the module or if it were to somehow become detached from the aircraft, finding it would be easier, as it would stand out more in most environments.
Now I can’t say if the team over at uAvionix had that in mind or not. It’s still true either way.
uAvionix – The Company
uAvionix has a good track record for providing manned and unmanned aviation tracking solutions since they were founded in 2015.
It is a developer and manufacturer of communications, navigation, and surveillance products that are intended to create safety solutions for the manned and unmanned aviation industry.
Their product line includes transponders, transceivers, receivers, panel displays, and accessories for not only the aviation sector but the defense sector as well.
uAvionix has been enabling companies large and small to safely and reliably operate drones within the National Airspace System.
Headquartered in Bigfork, MT with a secondary office in Leesburg, VA, uAvionix currently consists of a team of 37 employees.
The team over at uAvionix consists of an unparalleled group of engineering and management, with every employee having a unique combination of experience within avionics, surveillance, and airport services, as well as UAS aircraft development, radio frequency (RF), and semiconductor industries.
The Leadership team is made up of fellow pilots within the fixed wing, rotary wing, and UAS aircraft areas.
This is a company that has worked closely with several major airports and the FAA to make the National Airspace System not only safer for us unmanned pilots but for our brethren within the manned sector as well.
They offer a full product line of manned aviation devices, such as ADS-B transponders, transceivers, and upgraded digital panel displays, that can replace older analog displays providing more accurate information to the pilot than before.
They have made their mark within the manned sector. Since they have such a presence within the manned industry, their unmanned interests are strong as well.
One notable product is George, an integrable autonomous autopilot system that can work with nearly all unmanned aircraft currently available today.
They also offer a product called Skyline.
This one is a really interesting product and would allow you to present a solid case to the FAA for BVLOS flights when you submit a request for such through the waiver process.
Then of course we have the ping systems that uAvionix has developed. Among that line, we find the pingRID module.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I would be bringing all of this up.
Well, it is to show that we have a trustworthy company that has established itself quite well within the aviation industry. They are bringing needed innovation and new technology to the forefront of the NAS.
Before we get to the module itself though, let’s look at why you’ll need such a device in the near future.
As we’re all aware, on September 16th of 2023, Remote ID will go into effect.
What this means is that after September 16th, in order to be within compliance with the Remote ID mandate, you will need to either be using a RID-equipped aircraft or you will need a RID module that can be affixed to your aircraft.
What is Remote ID?
As the FAA puts it, “Remote ID is the ability of a drone in flight to provide identification and location information that can be received by other parties.”
There are three ways a pilot can be in compliance with the Remote ID mandate.
- Operate a Standard Remote ID Drone that broadcasts identification and location information about the drone and its control station.
A Standard Remote ID Drone is one that is produced with built-in remote ID broadcast capability in accordance with the remote ID rule’s requirements.
- Operate a drone with a remote ID broadcast module. A broadcast module is a device that broadcasts identification and location information about the drone and its take-off location in accordance with the remote ID rule’s requirements.
The broadcast module can be added to a drone to retrofit it with remote ID capability. Persons operating a drone with a remote ID broadcast module must be able to see their drone at all times during flight.
- Operate (without remote ID equipment) at FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIAs) sponsored by community-based organizations or educational institutions.
FRIAs are the only locations unmanned aircraft (drones and radio-controlled airplanes) may operate without broadcasting remote ID message elements.
What information is required to be broadcast?
Whether using a Standard Remote ID Drone or a remote ID broadcast module, the message elements must be broadcast from take-off to shut down.
A Standard Remote ID Drone or a drone with a remote ID broadcast module must transmit the following message elements:
- A unique identifier for the drone
- The drone’s latitude, longitude, geometric altitude, and velocity
- An indication of the latitude, longitude, and geometric altitude of control station (standard) or take-off location (broadcast module)
- A time mark
- Emergency status (Standard Remote ID Drone only)
Now that we’ve refreshed ourselves on what Remote ID is and the information that is required to be broadcast, let’s move on to the pingRID module itself.
As we mentioned above, the RID module from uAvionix is in a white case, as opposed to what we’ve seen to date.
Now, here’s where we have a little bit of a discrepancy between what I have and what a consumer would receive. The pingRID module that I received is a prototype unit.
When in discussions with the fine folks over at uAvionix, they were very clear that they didn’t want to take from one of their customers that were awaiting a completed module.
As a way of not affecting their orders and allowing us to get hands-on with their product so we could test and review it, they sent out one of the fully functioning prototypes that they had on hand.
The only difference between the module I received and the one a consumer would receive is in the case material that is used. Everything else is the same as the manufactured units.
I took note of this one, and in order to be upfront with you, the reader, I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.
That one action actually garners a bit of respect from me. It is not often that you will find a company that puts their customer first. That shows a high level of integrity in my book.
Ease of use
The uAvionix pingRID is about as user-friendly as it can get. Right out of the box, it is ready to go with no set-up or integration required.
One needs only to assign the pingRID’s unique identification number to the aircraft’s registration with the FAA, and it’s good to go. That’s uAvionix’s words there.
Much like another module that we’ve already looked at, uAvionix has gone the same route as that of the Bluemark Beacon, by providing a router IP address to access the setup process.
As shown below here, this is taken right from the manual provided with the pingRID.
10.2 Status Web Page
Using a web browser such as Chrome, open the status web page at the following address: http://192.168.4.1.
The web page displays system configuration information and current, status, as shown below. “Serial Number” is uniquely assigned to this.
Remote Identification Broadcast Module, and can be used to identify your aircraft for registration purposes.
As we discussed in that previous article, this can be a bit of a hassle, with most people having an active firewall or some type of protection that may block you from getting to this page.
After the experience with that other module, I am familiar with the process of getting to the page with just the IP address. Someone who hasn’t gone through this may find it difficult.
So here I would recommend to the company that they simplify that process with an actual website, which would make this process a bit more streamlined for the consumer.
Look, I get it. The method chosen by uAvionix and Bluemark is somewhat standard and easiest for the manufacturer. But that by no means makes it the best method of choice.
This is a personal feeling, but it seems that uAvionix would benefit from having a dedicated easy-to-access webpage that has a more direct web address as opposed to the current method of just an IP address.
Now, much like Bluemark, which took heed of this advice and is currently working to improve that process, uAvionix may want to consider the same.
Attaching the module
As to attaching this module to a registered aircraft, that process was very easy.
Simply go over to the FAA Dronezone website, and from the Pilot’s dashboard, select Manage Device Inventory.
Find the aircraft that you want to attach the module to and select it.
From here, use the ellipsis on the far right to bring up additional options. One of these is EDIT.
Select this option, and you will be able to input the pingRID module’s S/N number, and the module will now be attached to that aircraft.
You can verify this by going back and looking at the details of that aircraft’s registration.
Now that process was very easy and straightforward. I will remind you here that YES, RID modules do need to be registered just as an aircraft does, and there is a five-dollar fee for doing so.
We’ve looked at a few of these RID modules now, and the battery life on them does seem to vary from unit to unit.
The Avionix pingRID module has an internal Li-ion 740mWh battery and provides around a two-hour operational time per charge.
This isn’t horrible and would probably cover most pilots and their operations; however, we have seen modules that have a much longer operation time per charge.
So, this limitation may be a deciding factor for you. It does recharge at a fairly good rate, and within a half hour to an hour, you can be fully recharged and able to keep on flying.
Weight and Size
The uAvionix pingRID is comparably sized to the other modules we’ve looked at, measuring 25.40 x 16.63 x.43.42mm, with a weight of 21 grams.
It’s a little hefty, but not so much so that it would affect the aircraft’s performance. It’s not as heavy as some but not as light as some others.
The uAvionix is steeply priced at $299.00. With that being said, we do see that these standalone modules are much higher priced than what we thought they would be based on what we were informed by the FAA when these discussions were first being worked out.
As a stand-alone unit, the cost is higher than that of a unit that would be attached to and powered by the aircraft or by an additional battery.
We see that these standalone units are, on average, running anywhere from the lowest-priced unit, the BlueMark Beacon, which runs $129 a module, to Dronetag’s Mini at $299.
So having this unit in the range it is, is to be expected. It may be hard to believe or think that these companies are gouging us pilots, and maybe they are.
The fact is that we are looking at something completely new, and as such, there is the cost of designing, developing, testing, and then manufacturing these devices.
All of which cost a good chunk of money to do and lead to the cost per unit price. That’s business.
As these units sell and make their way into the marketplace, the cost of production will decrease, and therefore the price per unit will come down.
Is it a bit of a sticker shock, to be sure. When we take into account the other modules we’re seeing, though, the uAvionix pingRID is right where nearly everyone else is.
Overall, the pingRID operated just as described, and minus the slight hiccups of getting to the IP address site, which in this case, only really allows access to the module’s information, it functioned just as we expected, and as it was designed.
I was more impressed by the company itself and how good their customer service was. Whenever I had any questions, they responded very quickly and provided some fantastic customer care.
The fact that they chose to send a prototype unit so as not to affect their current orders really shows they want to be helpful and have a level of integrity that we don’t see often enough in today’s business world.
Similar to the rating that Dronetag received, this is a Gold to Silver medal unit, with a lean more so to the gold medal standard.
As it is, yes, this RID module will put a hit in the pocketbook.
Regardless of that fact, come September 16th, your pocketbook is going to take a bit of a hit anyway, that is, if you want to be in compliance and don’t have a Remote ID-equipped drone.
As far as RID module options, this is a good choice. It is easy to use and doesn’t require much beyond assigning it to an aircraft through the FAA Dronezone.
It does have a limited battery life per charge compared to some of the other modules we’ve looked at. However, that may change with a further iteration of this module.
As we enter this unknown territory of Remote ID, it is difficult to say just how it will all shake out.
Will these modules come down in cost? Most assuredly, they have to.
If the FAA seriously wants this system to work, they may just have to offer some sort of reimbursement to those who adopt and adapt to the new way of things.
One thing is for sure. We the pilots and consumers can’t shove the fault onto these companies that are just trying to fill a need, and come September 16th, there will be a large need for just these types of products.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!