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DJI makes app to identify drones and find pilots

  Drones have caused widespread disruption at airports around the world

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Drones have caused widespread disruption at airports around the world

Drone maker DJI has shown a way to quickly identify a nearby drone and identify the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.

The technology uses a protocol called "Wi-Fi Aware", with which the drone basically transmits information about itself.

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruptions and give members of the public peace of mind.

But experts believe that sophisticated criminals could still circumvent the discovery.

"It will be very useful against rogue drones," said Elrike Franke, a political colleague at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who is studying the effects of the drone industry.

"But it will not be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, as these will be the first people to hack this system."

DJI told the BBC that it can add functionality to drones already on the market via a software update.

The company explained: "With the help of a simple app, anyone in the drone's radio range can get that signal and learn the drone's location, height, speed and direction as well as an identification number for the drone and the location of the pilot."

But a spokesman said it will only happen when an agreement on remote drone identification has been agreed.

He added that DJI has not yet decided whether it will force its customers to install the update.

"Right Behind That Building"

While the majority of drone operators are acting correctly, there have been a number of high-profile instances of pilots acting illegally ̵

1; and others where suspicions of drone activity have caused enormous disruption.

In December 2018, Gatwick Airport, in Sussex, England, was brought to a standstill following reports of a drone apparently flying in sheltered airspace.

"If the Gatwick staff had a smartphone enabled with this capacity in their pockets," explained Adam Lisberg, of DJI, "they could have taken it out, seen a drone registration number, seen the route and the location of the operator.

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DJI said that drone pilots can be quickly and accurately located with technology

"They could look at the map and say," Right behind that building. ""

Mr. Lisberg said that the same method could be used to create trust. One scenario, he suggested, could be a member of the public using an app to discover that a nearby drone is owned by a construction company and inspected a roof at a specific address.

"It sounds like a step in the right direction," added French Franke. "If we move into a world where drones will be more ubiquitous, we need someone to get an idea of ​​whether a drone is there for a legitimate reason or not."

Incoming regulation

All drone manufacturers will eventually have to adopt a remote identification system to comply with upcoming regulations that will be introduced in different countries.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration, along with the country's Department of Transportation, is expected to unveil proposed rules for mandatory remote drone IDs next month – although the movement has repeatedly delayed.

Even when agreed, the measures can take more than a year to implement. FAA has told drones to come up with their own solutions in the meantime

DJI said it would launch its remote ID capabilities when its obligations were more clear. It could apply the changes to dream models that go back "several years," it said.

Widespread adoption of the technology will also be withheld from the hitherto limited inclusion of the "Wi-Fi Aware" protocol in popular smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone, which does not currently support it.


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