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Whose Drone Was That Anyway?

Whose Drone Was That Anyway?Saverio Blasi/Getty Images

Whose Drone Was That Anyway?

Should drones be required to broadcast an identifying code by radio?

In late 2015, mandatory drone registration went into effect in the United States. Since then, anyone who wants to fly a drone (or model aircraft) weighing over 0.55 pound (0.25 kilogram) must register with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to receive a unique identification number. This number needs to be placed on the drone, but there is no requirement for the tiny aircraft to broadcast signals to allow for remote identification. That might change in the future.

The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 [PDF] required the FAA administrator to “convene industry stakeholders to facilitate the development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of unmanned aircraft systems and associated unmanned aircraft.” Earlier this year, DJI, the world’s largest commercial drone manufacturer, outlined a general scheme for doing just that.

The Chinese company’s proposal attempts to balance the public’s interest in being able to identify who is using a drone at a particular place and time with the privacy interests of the drone’s owner or operator. As DJI points out, drone operators may want to maintain anonymity even if there are people around to witness their flights. Suppose, for example, a company is surveying land in anticipation of purchasing and developing it. That company might not want to clue in its competitors. Or perhaps the drone is being flown for the purposes of investigative journalism, in which case the journalists involved might not want others to know what they are looking into. Continue reading about identifying drones.

(Source: DAVID SCHNEIDER via IEEE Spectrum)

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