App Will Identify Drones Flying Overhead & Find Out Who They Owns Them

By Doug Williams
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The modern world is full of all sorts of amazing technology including drones, that lets us do things we never used to be able to imagine.  Unfortunately, many of those amazing bits of tech also come with a hefty price, a serious decrease in our personal privacy.

 

Besides the obvious loss of privacy related to things like websites gathering and selling our personal data, there are other, less obvious invasions of privacy.

Since most cell phones these days have cameras and video functions, for example, random strangers can take our pictures or record us when we’re out in public.

 

But have you ever thought about drones?

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Over the last several years, drones have become increasingly common in all sorts of places.  They’re used for military applications, but also in the world of retail.

Private citizens buy them as hobby projects and toys.  Most of the devices have the capacity to record things they fly over.  With more and more of them cluttering the sky, have you ever wondered where they came from, or who was responsible for them?

Soon, you won’t have to wonder any more.

The Daily Mail recently reported that DJI, a Chinese company that is a major force in the world of drone technology, is developing a smartphone app that will let anyone who downloads it identify any drones within a distance of .62 miles (1 km).

The app would be free, and could be ready to launch as early as next year.  It would allow users to not only track nearby drones, but also provide information about its speed, altitude, and direction.

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It will be able to tell you where the drone’s pilot is located, and even the drone’s ID number, if it’s been registered with the FAA, according to Digital Trends.  The app will be able to track both DJI drones and those from other makers.

When the app launches, it be the first time that the general public will have easy access to that sort of information. There are already other methods of monitoring drone traffic, but they are costly and require specialized equipment the general public wouldn’t have access to.

It was designed to run using the WIFI Aware protocol for mobile devices, so phones running the app would be able to use the drone’s WIFI signal, but it wouldn’t create a full-blown, 2two-way connection.

DJI says they’re developing the app to contribute to users’ safety, security, and peace of mind.

It’s also the drone manufacturer’s attempt to demonstrate their efforts to make drone flights more transparent to the FAA, which could mean fewer regulations later.

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A spokesperson for the FAA has said that remote identification is one of the agency’s highest priorities with regard to unmanned systems. It would allow the FAA to focus on harmful operations, rather than put stringent across-the-board restrictions on drone operators.

Governmental flight authorities are certainly giving thought to how to deal with drone traffic.  The United Kingdom announced it was creating a drone registry, and anyone with a drone or model aircraft between half a pound and 40 pounds would have to register them.

In the US, the FAA is considering a way to identify drones that’s similar to the license plate system used for cars.  Each one would get a unique number that would allow it to be easily identified, remotely.

There is also the fact that the app offers the public a means to have an extra sense of security, knowing that can affirm, for example, that a particular drone belongs to a retail company offering drone deliveries, as opposed to it being owned by a nosy neighbour who’s wondering what you’re really doing in your back yard.

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DJI’s app is still undergoing the approval process with federal regulators, but if it passes muster, it should be available in the early part of 2020.

 
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