Here at Droneblog, we’ve been reviewing Remote ID modules quite a bit lately as they get their FAA green light.
There’s been a lot of coverage all around the interwebs when it comes to the Remote ID topic.
Today we’re going to be looking at the modules that we have had hands-on experience with and let you know which ones may just be the best options for you.
Does My Drone Have Remote ID?
When it comes down to it, Remote ID is a bit controversial. Trust me, we know.
Whether you’re a supporter or a non-supporter of the Remote ID system, it doesn’t change the fact that, come September 16th, 2023, in order to be in compliance with Remote ID, you will either need to be flying a Remote ID equipped aircraft or find a FRIA where you can fly.
We’ll come back to that FRIA thing, as we are only now seeing any get actual approval from the FAA. For the bulk of us, we will have Remote ID built in.
That means that the manufacturer of our aircraft has brought it into compliance through a firmware update.
Remote ID-equipped aircraft includes the DJI Mavic 3 systems or Autel’s EVO 2, Nano, or Lite – even the Skydio 2.
These aircraft will be in compliance with you having to do nothing more than check your aircraft registration over at the FAA’s Dronezone.
If your aircraft, RC model plane, or helicopter (yes those are included in the Remote ID requirement) does not have built-in Remote ID, then you will have to employ the use of a Remote ID module.
If you want to check for your particular aircraft here is the link to the FAAs UAS Declaration of Compliance which is the list the FAA has provided of accepted aircraft and modules.
What type of Remote ID Module do I need?
Remote ID modules run the entire gamut in pricing, anywhere from $40 and up for the non-self-contained modules, and up to $300 for the self-contained modules.
From the non-self-contained versions that are good for manufacturers, homebuilders, and those within the FPV world of droning, to the completely self-contained modules, that are simply attached to the craft and turned on, there’s a lot of ground to cover and much of it can be confusing.
Such as what module is best for the type of aircraft I fly? Do I need one with Network RID or is it ok to just have one with broadcast Remote ID? Or, what the heck is Remote ID?
Another confusing one, one that we clear up right now, is Direct Remote ID and Broadcast Remote ID also referred to as Standard Remote ID.
They are actually all the same thing.
Direct Remote ID is how Remote ID is referred to within the CAA.
Broadcast Remote ID or Standard Remote ID is how it is termed by the FAA. Otherwise they are indeed the same.
Many of the questions you may have in regard to Remote ID we have tried to answer in these related articles.
Types Of RID Modules
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about the two types of modules that we are seeing and what they do.
One is the Non-Self-Contained module. And the other is the Self-Contained module.
These modules are quite simple. They do not have a built-in power source and can be found with a built-in antenna or with an attachable antenna.
These Remote ID modules are just a circuit board. It is either designed to have an antenna attached or a built-in antenna.
These modules are really meant to be used by manufacturers or home builders and are meant to be wired into the aircraft directly.
They do not have their own power source and would require either tying into the aircraft’s power system or some other external power source.
For many of the FPV flyers out there, this would be the preferred option as they tend to be smaller and weigh less than their self-contained brethren.
These are also the lowest-cost modules to be had, starting at around $40 and going up from there.
Much like they sound, the self-contained modules are just that. They have built-in antennas and more importantly built-in power sources.
They are self-contained within a small durable case, and they attach to the aircraft in a convenient place and have an on/off switch for their operation, with most having either a single LED light to a few LED lights to indicate what the module status is.
Some of these types of modules offer not only Broadcast/Direct Remote ID, but some also offer Network Remote ID with a limited number even offering the use of an external antenna option.
These types of modules seem to start at around $130 and go up to $300.
Types of Remote ID
As we pointed out above, there are two types of Remote ID: Broadcast/Direct Remote ID and Network Remote ID.
I hear you; confusing! On September 16th, 2023, the requirement for Remote ID will be that of Broadcast/Direct Remote ID. Not Network Remote ID.
Network Remote ID was the way the FAA wanted remote ID to go, that is till they realized just how difficult that would be, and that there would be many areas that it could not be used in.
So, what is the difference between the two?
Network Remote ID
Network Remote ID relies on an “always on” data connection to transmit your Remote ID information.
This is typically through a cellular signal or other internet source and would in most cases require the pilot to have and maintain a monthly service agreement with a company like Verizon or AT&T, or other service provider, similar to that of your cell phone.
There could also be a closed network, such as a worksite Wi-Fi connection used for connecting to a closed Network that a company uses for interdepartmental use.
The information that would be sent out would be similar to that of Broadcast/Direct Remote ID, just through a different means of connection such as those described above.
In a closed network, this type of Remote ID connection could be quite useful and would provide data sharing in real-time with others within that network, but would not necessarily mean that you would be in compliance with the FAA regulations concerning Remote ID.
As a compliance method, it would not work out, as there are many places where a cellular signal or Wi-fi connection is unavailable due to coverage issues within that network.
This is why the FAA went with the type of Remote ID we’ll see required on September 16th, 2023.
Broadcast/Direct Remote ID
This leads us to the type of Remote ID we will see enacted on September 16th, 2023, which is that of Broadcast/Direct Remote ID.
With this type of Remote ID, the aircraft, if so equipped or with the use of a module, will broadcast the required information through a Bluetooth method and will have a range of 1 to 2km.
This RF signal will simply broadcast the required information for any device equipped to receive it if it is within range of the broadcast.
Now I have seen many people ask how Bluetooth reaches such ranges, as they are most familiar with standard Bluetooth and that it is a limited-range system.
The answer is complicated and simple all in the same breath.
The latest in Bluetooth technology, Bluetooth 5 and some of the later Bluetooth 4 versions, is using a Low Energy Bluetooth system that is able to send a signal further than what we saw in the earlier versions such as Bluetooth 2 and 3 and some of the earlier versions of 4.
The official Bluetooth marketing material from the Bluetooth standard organization advertises that Bluetooth 5.0 has four times the range, two times the speed, and eight times the broadcasting message capacity of older versions of Bluetooth.
Again, these improvements apply to Bluetooth Low Energy and ensure devices can take advantage of them while saving power.
With Bluetooth 5.0, such devices can use data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps, which is double what Bluetooth 4.2 supports.
Devices can also communicate over distances of up to 800 feet (or 240 meters), four times the 200 feet (or 60 meters) allowed by Bluetooth 4.2.
This is where it can get hinky, as it really all depends on how the peripherals are set. However, walls and other obstacles will weaken the signal, as we see with Wi-Fi.
What all that means is that this new type of Bluetooth is unlike the earlier versions and not the same as the standard Bluetooth most of us a familiar with.
That’s how it’s done. Let’s get to those modules now, shall we.
Best Remote ID Modules
Since we have two types of modules, the Self-contained and the non-self-contained, we will break them up into two sections.
We’ll also go with a five-star system for your convivence.
As self-contained modules, these modules would be easy to use as they would have an independent power source separate from the aircraft they are being used with and would be within a tamperproof case.
1. AeroPing – $$
The AeroPing module is kind of big and very close in size to another similar module we will look at, the Dronetag Mini.
They are very comparable to one another. I know size matters in certain situations. Sometimes bigger is better, but then again, sometimes smaller is better.
The AeroPing module is one of the larger of the modules we’ve seen come out so far, with it measuring 46mm x 57mm x 20mm, compared to the Dronetag Mini at 54x35x15 mm – just a fraction of a size larger.
Another slight drawback is the module’s weight of 38g. This does make it larger and heavier than other modules we will look at.
For most drones, this wouldn’t be a big issue, but for some FPV quads and other smaller drones, this weight and size could have some effect on the aircraft’s performance.
That’s it for drawbacks, though. It has an exceptional 8-14 hours of operation depending on the configuration, which I found to be quite accurate.
When testing it, I was easily within that time frame and consistently got similar operation times from the unit, on average around 12hrs to 13hrs.
So, you can get a whole day’s worth of flights in with it, without the need to recharge in the field.
That is actually one of the benefits the module’s larger size provides, as it does allow for a larger battery and therefore longer operation time.
It has a LiPo 3.7V 500mAh battery. The charging time wasn’t far off from the specs either, with it being around 2 hrs from a low or weak charge to being fully charged.
With its use of Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-fi in the 2.4GHz band, I found that the range of the module was also fairly accurate to the company’s claims of 1 to 2km, with it changing dependent on the aircraft’s altitude and flying environment.
The AeroPing by DroneDefense is a surprisingly good option for someone who wants a full-featured module with both Broadcast/Direct Remote ID and the Network RID option.
It’s also a more affordable option and works well in the field. With a long-lasting 12 to 14 hr battery, it does not need to be recharged while out flying.
It is a true 5-Star Module that won’t let you down.
2. BlueMark DB120 Beacon – $
When looking at this module itself, it’s a fairly large module. It’s about the same size as the Dronetag Mini Commercial RID or the AeroPing module.
The Bluemark DroneBeacon DB120 is 48 x 38 x 28 mm in size and takes a weird L shape, which in turn could make mounting it difficult. It does weigh only 25 grams.
As a basic broadcast module, it just doesn’t need to be so large. This is a unique design choice, to say the least, as every other RID module we’ve seen is a flat rectangle.
The case for this module appears to be 3D printed. This is backed up by the Specs that state it’s nylon.
So, more probable than not 3D printed. So, there is some questionability to its durability and lifespan.
Here again, I’ll point out that this probably wasn’t the choice of BlueMark but whoever the actual supplier is.
As to its longevity in the field, it has a limited 3- to 4-hour battery, so you would need to recharge it midday if you are an all-day flyer.
It is somewhat difficult to initially setup due to the process the manufacturer has gone with.
Unlike some of the other modules we’ve looked at, it does not have a dedicated website and relies on going through the setup process by using a direct IP address location.
Depending on the system you are using, setup may require additional steps such as allowing access through one’s firewall to gain said access to the setup process.
Beyond that, it is easy to input the required information and have the module set up for use.
This is something that the company has stated that they are working on improving.
It is one of the most affordable options we’ve seen so far in a self-contained module which is why it receives 4 stars.
It is, however, a plain Jane sort of module that is only a broadcast module and nothing more.
3. Dronetag Mini – $$$
Dronetag as a company has proven they provide high-quality, well-designed modules that can cover the whole fleet that you may use, with an equally thought-out App for setup and updating, giving them an A+ for ease of use.
This module is not only the required Broadcast/Direct Remote ID.
It also, like the AeroPing module, offers Network Remote connectivity to increase workflow and situational awareness within a networked environment.
It comes equipped with a long-lasting battery with good longevity per charge and is certainly enough to cover you for a whole day of flying, without the need to recharge throughout the day.
If you’re a hobbyist flyer with multiple aircraft, this could be a good option as well, with its ability to have more than one aircraft associated with one module and can be changed quickly from aircraft to aircraft by using the purposely designed App.
When figuring out the cost per craft module and then comparing it to a module such as the Dronetag Mini, the cost alone may persuade you to look at other options, as this module does run in the higher-cost arena.
All of the Dronetag line of products are impressive, and this is undoubtedly a company focused on doing it right by the pilot.
As this module is oriented more toward a commercial flyer, it only receives a 4 and a half star rating here, mainly to its high cost which may have a buyer doing a double take.
Although it is priced on the higher scale, you do get your money’s worth from this module, not only from the module itself but from Dronetag, the company providing it.
They do provide excellent and friendly customer service and a very well thought out and designed product with an equally thought out and designed app.
4. Zephyr Systems Drone Beacon – $$$
The Zephyr Systems Drone Beacon is a simple Broadcast/Direct Remote ID Module.
Now you may be thinking that I made some sort of mistake with the picture of this module, as it looks just like that of the low-cost BlueMark DB 120. I did not!
This module appears to be identical to the BlueMark Module.
When we consider that this is a basic remote ID Broadcast/Direct module, it appears to be highly overpriced when compared to other basic modules.
Also similar to the BlueMark module, it has a limited battery that would require being recharged in the field if your operations call for longer than a 2- to 3-hour period.
Its pricing just doesn’t make any sense and is the leading reason for it only receiving 2 stars.
Why pay the price of $305 for something another company is able to supply for only $130?
There is one nuance here that separates the Zephyr module from that of the BlueMark one and that is that the Zephyr does appear to be able to use an exterior antenna to increase its range.
5. Uavionix PingRID – $$$
The uAvionix PingRID is about as user-friendly as it can get. Right out of the box, it is ready to go with minimal set-up or integration required.
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 uAvionix PingRID module has an internal Li-ion 740mWh battery and provides around a two-hour operational time per charge.
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 when compared to similar-sized modules, 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, and would make it fall into a sort of medium category.
Overall, the PingRID operated just as described, and minus the slight hiccups of getting to the IP address site, which in this case, only allows access to the module’s information, it functioned just as we expected and as it was designed.
As far as RID module options, this is a good choice as one of the only American-made modules we’ve seen.
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.
It is also a basic Broadcast/Direct Remote ID module and lacks many of the features other modules in its price range offer.
It does come from a company that has a long history of providing quality products for the aviation industry, it only receives 3 stars here due to the high cost, as you are able to find less costly options that offer the same results.
6. DroneTag Beacon – $$
The Dronetag Beacon is by far the smallest of the Remote ID modules we’ve seen to date and will probably see. It’s smaller than a Lumecube Strobe.
It really is tiny when compared to what seems to be the accepted norm for these modules, measuring just 23.25mm by 36.8mm or .915inches by 1.449 inches.
Yeah, like I said, tiny.
This diminutive size means it can go just about anywhere. GPS or FPV quad doesn’t matter.
This small module can find a home on any aircraft you may fly. It fits nicely right behind the action camera on most FPV quads.
The reason for comparing this module to a Lumecube Strobe is that it can easily be placed right where your strobe would go for night operations.
Along with the small size of the Dronetag Beacon, it also is currently the lightest of all the RID modules we’ve looked at so far and most likely won’t be displaced anytime soon on its weight, much like its size.
It weighs in at only 16 grams. Although 16 grams is still 16 grams being added.
So, for those close to the 250-gram limit, an additional 16 grams could put you over that 250-gram limit.
As the regulations state, the take-off weight is the weight you must go by for the 250-gram limit.
Before we move on, it should be pointed out that the Dronetag Beacon is also a good RID solution for model flyers.
The Dronetag Beacon offers an impressive 16 hours of battery life per charge.
No, I’m serious. I also put this to the test, a few times now. The actual battery time I seem to be getting is 16 hrs.
The build of this unit is solid, constructed of quality plastic materials, with the integral components neatly protected by a sealed tamper-proof case.
It can easily handle that unfortunate crash here and there, making it good for FPV.
The fully functioning adjacent App does make using it a breeze. In a world where we already have so many things on our pre-flight checklist, the ease of use with any of Dronetags product line is superb.
The small size is just mind-blowing after handling a few of these modules now. It is easily half the size of anything else we’re seeing.
It receives a full 5 stars for its design and its performance, and also because it comes from a company that has proven that it will go the extra yard to provide excellent customer service on top of a high-quality product.
This is my module of choice for my Remote ID needs.
As above, we’ll also use a five-star system here for your convivence.
As a Non-Self-Contained Module, these modules would require a separate power source either provided by the aircraft itself or some other separate power source.
They would also not be contained within a protective case as they are designed to be integrated into the aircraft itself.
These types of modules can easily find a place among the model plane flyers or the FPV home-builders and tend to be much more affordable than the Self-Contained Modules.
1. Hex Cube ID – $
The first of the Non-Self-Contained modules we’ll look at is by CubePilot.
The Hex Cube ID is a very small 25mm x 13.75mm x 3.5mm module board. For someone who has the know-how, this is a fairly easy piece of equipment to install.
Primarily focused on the DIYer, for someone without that knowledge, it can be a bit of a hassle to figure out the first time, although it does get easier the second and third time around.
CubePilot, though, has you covered and provides excellent customer service and assistance, as well as well-written installation guides.
It is capable of not only Serial protocols but CAN protocols as well.
It is surprisingly lightweight, weighing only 10 grams with the cable and antenna.
The Hex Cube ID has the distinction of being one of the lowest-cost RID modules around. You can purchase it for only $38.99.
It is for all of the above reasons that this is a great 5-star module for those who need this type of module.
2. Dronetag DRI – $
Here we have two options from Dronetag. First is their manufacturer unit, the Dronetag DRI.
Second is the upcoming Dronetag BS.
Both of these models are from a company that is entirely focused on providing the very best products for Remote ID.
Both of these Board modules operate Broadcast/Direct Remote ID as well as Network Remote ID.
The team over at Dronetag is doing its very best to get us pilots into compliance and has designed the entire product line for ease of use by designing a dedicated App for all of their Modules, including these as well.
They both feature a power input of 17V or the use of an independent power option of a 3.7V LiPo battery.
Both can be used as GNSS input to Betaflight controller. Both can be used as a telemetry module for popular RC radios.
Flight information logging goes to the onboard flash memory for easy visualization in the Dronetag App, Google Earth, or a similar app.
Both are cost-friendly with the DRI unit running $49 and the BS unit running $89.
Both of these units are 5-star rated for the reasons listed above.
And how can you not love a company that is aware of our concerns as pilots and has a product statement like “If you think the new Remote ID rules are BS, this product is the perfect fit for you.”
» MORE: How to Get Remote ID for Drones
There is a lot of discussion floating about on whether a pilot – Hobbyist or Part 107, should comply with the upcoming Remote ID mandate.
I can’t tell you what you should do, only what I intend to do.
Which is to comply. It’s my livelihood on the line, and I like getting my bills paid.
I can say that a system like Remote ID is needed, just not the form we are getting.
As a pilot who flies in many different areas, from a heavy-density environment like a large city to plenty of rural areas, I fly aircraft that are equipped with ABS-D notification and have found it to be a wonderful means of knowing when some manned aircraft is entering into my operational area.
It provides an added layer of situational awareness that I really appreciate and makes my flights safer as a result.
It would have been nice if manned pilots would have had the same type of notification system available to them, as we do, on occasion, share the same airspace.
I also do not have an issue with certain parties knowing about my aircraft and what it’s doing if those parties have a need to know such.
What I and many of us have an issue with is the broadcasting of the ground control station location to anyone who has simply downloaded an app, as it does seem to open the door for confrontation and even worse.
As a pilot, I don’t want to be interrupted while conducting a flight by some uninformed individual or individuals that just want to make trouble, or once again, worse.
It seems to go directly against bothering a pilot while in flight which is, after all, an offense all its own.
As we move into the future, drones and their operations must be incorporated into the National Airspace System, and some way of monitoring the more sensitive areas of that airspace is needed.
So come September 16th, we’ll just have to wait and see how it all goes.
As for safety, this system does nothing to assist us in being safer in the sub 400ft airspace.
Maybe down the line, that will be realized, and those making such policies will rethink things, as it should always be about safety, not enforcement or security.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!