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DJI creates app to identify drones and find pilots



  Drones have caused widespread disruption at airports around the world Copyright copyright
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Caption

Drones have caused widespread disruption at airports around the world

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

The technique uses a protocol called "Wi-Fi Aware", which the drone essentially sends information about itself.

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruptions, and provide security to members of the public.

But experts believe sophisticated criminals will still be able to circumvent detection.

"It's going to be very useful against rogue drones," said Elrike Franke, a political fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the effects of the drone industry.

"But it won't be enough to fight people with really bad intentions, because these will be the first people to hack this system."

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

The company explained: "Using a simple app, anyone within the drone's radio range can receive this signal and learn the drone's location, altitude, speed and direction, as well as an identification number for the drone and the location of the pilot."

However, a spokesperson said that it will only happen when there is agreed regulation on the remote identification of drones.

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

& # 39; Right behind the building & # 39;

While the majority of drone operators behave properly, there have been a number of high-profile instances of pilots behaving illegally ̵

1; and others where suspected drone activity has caused enormous disruption.

In December 2018, Gatwick Airport, in Sussex, England, was put to rest after reports of a drone apparently flying in sheltered airspace.

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

Copyright copyright
Getty Images

Caption

DJI said that drone pilots could be located quickly and accurately using technology

"They could look at the map and say, & # 39; Right behind the building. & # 39;"

Hr. Lisberg said the same method can be used to build trust. One scenario, he suggested, could be an audience using an app to discover that a nearby drone was owned by a construction company, inspecting a roof at a specific address.

"That sounds like a step in the right direction," Franke added. "If we are moving into a world where drones will be more ubiquitous, we need someone to understand if a drone is there for a legitimate reason or not."

Incoming regulation

Finally, all drone manufacturers will need to implement an external identification system to comply with upcoming regulations to be implemented in different countries.

The US Federal Aviation Administration, along with the state Department of Transportation, is expected to unveil proposed mandatory external drone ID rules next month – although this move has been delayed repeatedly.

Even once a consensus was agreed, the measures could take more than a year to implement. The FAA has told drone manufacturers to come up with their own solutions in the meantime.

DJI said it would roll out its external ID capabilities when the commitments were clearer. It could apply to the changes to drone models that date back to "several years", it says.

Widespread adoption of the technology will also be held back somewhat by the limited inclusion of the "Wi-Fi Aware" protocol in popular smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone, which does not yet support it.

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