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DJI AeroScope brings electronic license plates to drones

Your drone could soon get its own ‘license plate.’

Chinese dronemaker DJI this week unveiled DJI Aeroscope, a system that acts like an “electronic license plate for drones” and is intended as a way for authorities to identify and monitor drones while in the air.

DJI AeroScope is a software that works on both DJI drones as well as other manufacturers’ drones without any hardware modifications.

To work, the software uses the existing communications radio transmission between a drone and its remote controller to transmit their location, altitude, speed, direction, takeoff location, operator location, and an identifier such as a registration or serial number. That information can be transmitted to any AeroScope receiver within radio range.

This stream of data functions as an electronic license plate for drones, and real-time information about its flight is displayed on the AeroScope receiver.

DJI AeroScope is intended to enable authorities in responding to drones flying near sensitive locations such as airports or prisons, as well as to complaints about drones in other areas.

Details on the program are still pretty light, including how much it will cost or how it would be implemented.

But DJI has extensively outlined its vision for remote tracking of drones in the past via a white paper. The AeroScope system launched this week very much mirrors something described in a white paper released by DJI this summer.

Drone tracking and identification has been one of the latest hot button issues for the drone community and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Last year, the United States Congress directed the FAA to develop approaches to remotely identifying the operators and owners of drones, and set deadlines for doing so over the next two years.  To do that, the FAA created a UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (sometimes referred to as ARC), which met for the first time this summer. That group is comprised of drone stakeholders including DJI, AT&T and Intel.

Here’s what we know about the FAA’s plans for a drone identification and tracking system so far via the ARC.

In its announcement, DJI made it clear that it is saying the privacy of the customer is being kept in mind.

“DJI’s solution provides the information authorities need, while ensuring that flight data is only collected on the small number of drone flights that could raise concerns,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI’s VP of policy and legal affairs.

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