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DJI Proposes New Electronic 'License Plate' For Drones (digitaltrends.com) 107

linuxwrangler writes: Chinese drone maker DJI proposed that drones be required to transmit a unique identifier to assist law enforcement to identify operators where necessary. Anyone with an appropriate receiver could receive the ID number, but the database linking the ID with the registered owner would only be available to government agencies. DJI likens this to a license plate on a car and offers it as a solution to a congressional mandate that the FAA develop methods to remotely identify drone operators. "The best solution is usually the simplest," DJI wrote in a white paper on the topic, which can be downloaded at this link. "The focus of the primary method for remote identification should be on a way for anyone concerned about a drone flight in close proximity to report an identifier number to the authorities, who would then have the tools to investigate the complaint without infringing on operator privacy. [...] No other technology is subject to mandatory industry-wide tracking and recording of its use, and we strongly urge against making UAS the first such technology. The case for such an Orwellian model has not been made. A networked system provides more information than needed, to people who don't require it, and exposes confidential business information in the process."
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DJI Proposes New Electronic 'License Plate' For Drones

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  • Uh, no. If a drone is close enough to know who I am, I should be able to know who the operator is, without a layer of bureaucracy in the way. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
    • If a drone is close enough to know who I am, I should be able to know who the operator is,

      Drones don't know who you are. They're just remote controlled aircraft with some level of autonomy.

      Someone can already hide in a tree and view you with a long lens without your knowledge.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        "Someone can already hide in a tree and view you with a long lens without your knowledge."

        OK, let's use your analogy. That's illegal, generally classified as "peeping Tom/voyeurism/invasion of privacy/intrusion of solitude." So let's restrict drone operation in the same manner instead of simply letting them broadcast an ID. I like your idea even better.
        • That's illegal, generally classified as "peeping Tom/voyeurism/invasion of privacy/intrusion of solitude." So let's restrict drone operation in the same manner instead of simply letting them broadcast an ID.

          It's already illegal to operate the drone in a manner which violates your privacy. If they're looking in your windows, they're not supposed to be.

          I'm not really against drones having transponder signals; I'm against people being able to look up my identity from the signal information. You (or the DA) should have to file a lawsuit to get that information.

        • "Someone can already hide in a tree and view you with a long lens without your knowledge."

          That's illegal

          No. Except for a few very narrow circumstances, using a telescope is not a crime, even when looking at other people. Using a drone should not be a crime either. If my kid wants to fly his $59 quadcopter in his own backyard, he should not have to register with the government to do so.

          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            Perhaps you missed "the tree" part. You know, intentionally circumventing barriers which create a reasonable expectation of privacy. Drones occupy an even more unnatural position, being able to go places people can't.

            I have no problem with your kid flying an unlicensed drone in your backyard if your neighbors don't, or if it doesn't have a camera which lets it look over your neighbor's fence.
            • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

              ...flying an unlicensed drone in your backyard if your neighbors don't...

              What do his neighbors have to do with what he does in his back yard? It's his back yard. As long as he remains in his back yard, and isn't in violation of any noise (or other) ordinances, the neighbors have no input on the matter.

              or if it doesn't have a camera which lets it look over your neighbor's fence.

              I can see over my neighbor's fence from the elevated deck in my back yard. Does that mean I'm not allowed to go out on my deck with a camera without my neighbors permission?

              That being said, I am 100% in favor of what DJI is proposing. Once I operate my quad off my private prop

          • If my kid wants to fly his $59 quadcopter in his own backyard, he should not have to register with the government to do so.

            I assume your car has a license plate so your argument is silly.

            • I assume your car has a license plate so your argument is silly.

              You can drive your car around your private property with no license plate or registration at all.
            • you dont need one if the car never leaves your own property
              • Sure, you can take the car home home and remove it but it had a license plate when you bought it and you have to put it back on again if you go outside your fence.

                IOW, your argument is stupid.

        • "Someone can already hide in a tree and view you with a long lens without your knowledge." OK, let's use your analogy. That's illegal, generally classified as "peeping Tom/voyeurism/invasion of privacy/intrusion of solitude." So let's restrict drone operation in the same manner instead of simply letting them broadcast an ID. I like your idea even better.

          Um... Not really. Sitting up in a tree on your property with field glasses might be repugnant, but I don't think it's illegal. As long as you are not trespassing. Some localities may have rules about some kinds of things you cannot take pictures of for security or decency reasons (like some perv running around with cameras in his shoes for that up skirt pic) but in general, if you are not trespassing, you get to stay up that tree.

          So in this case, flying a drone over your yard, taking photos of the neigh

        • Peeping Tom would be looking in someone's windows.

          Driving down the street, or sitting at a bus stop, and seeing people walk by in public isn't illegal. There's no invasion of privacy because there is no privacy out in public. Flying 200 feet overhead and seeing people walking down the sidewalk isn't illegal any more than driving down the street and seeing people. Sitting behind a bush also is not illegal in the United States. If you want privacy, go inside.

          If you're extra paranoid, you might think about a "

          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            "Peeping Tom would be looking in someone's windows"

            It's that, and more (and I deliberately included other, similar concepts because the legal expression of the concept varies). What's illegal is circumventing barriers which create a reasonable expectation of privacy. Like climbing a tree to see over a fence, or flying a drone over someone's residence.
            • The laws are written down. You can read them, rather than making something up out of thin air and deciding to believe it. I've copy-pastes it for you below. You'll notice flying is NOT illegal - flying over someone's house is very much NOT covered by the "peeping tom" section because that would make air travel nearly impossible.

              As I recall 46 or 47 states use this wording:
              (11)âfor a lewd or unlawful purpose:
              (A)âenters on the property of another and looks into a dwelling on the property through any

              • by msauve ( 701917 )
                Just like preview on /., you've obviously never heard of common law, have you?
                • by cb88 ( 1410145 )
                  What does it matter... just about every model toy "drone" law on the books in unenforceable, certainly nobody is going to do anything unless you harm someone or break something, or someone with enough money to sue you gets pissed off.

                  So, fly with common sense, and don't piss people off. 'Murca...
          • Yep people are naive. Anyone with an aircraft could simply open the window and stick a DSLR out and zoom right in on your backyard. Unlike a "drone" you're going to have no idea it's happening because the person is 2+ miles away and using a zoom lens.

            Sure, the barrier to entry has gone down, and unfortunately some really irresponsible people are able to buy something at Walmart and use it to mess with others. But generally speaking, the pandoras box was opened a long time ago. We live in three dimensions an
    • may i see your drivers license, registration and insurance please.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Uh, no. If a drone is close enough to know who I am, I should be able to know who the operator is, without a layer of bureaucracy in the way. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

      Like a license plate number?

      There are several license plate number databases in the UK but the worst someone can find out about me from my license plate is.
      1. I drive a blue BMW 135i coupe with a 3L turbocharged engine.
      2. My MOT is current and there are no listed problems with my car.
      3. My car is taxed.

      If I park in front of your house and you want to find out who owns that car, you'll have to go through a discovery process via the police.

      What the article here is proposing is simply putting a tra

  • HAM operators are already searchable, if you search for a callsign on ARRL.ORG you can usually find a person's home address. (ex: W0ORE)

    I see no reason not to do the same for RC hobbyists. Obviously if you visit a drone operator's home address with the intent to harass or threaten them that is already a crime, and they can request a restraining order or defend themselves if it gets serious.

    • Another area with registration ensures that the information about a specific gun is available to law enforcement following proper procedures, but the database can never be leaked in masse, causing the issues that would entail.

      Each manufacturer (seperately) has a list of which distributor they sold it to. Each distributor has a list of which wholesaler they sold it to. Each wholesaler has a list of which retailer they sold it to. Each retailer has a list of the end-purchaser they sold it to.

      A law enforcement

      • Gun owners didn't want the gun registry to be public because we didn't want to be targeted by stupid burglars.

      • Each wholesaler has a list of which retailer they sold it to. Each retailer has a list of the end-purchaser they sold it to.

        Unless you bought the gun at a gun show in Florida, in which case the wholesaler sells directly to the end-purchaser, and doesn't record anything.

  • "the database linking the ID with the registered owner would only be available to government agencies." Anyone buying that load of Bull?
  • DJI says: " No other technology is subject to mandatory industry-wide tracking and recording of its use, and we strongly urge against making UAS the first such technology."

    This is complete and utter bullshit by DJI. Every manned aircraft operated in the United States (except for a very small number of antique airplanes made around 1946 and earlier, balloons, and some gliders) are currently required to broadcast a signal used to track it. It's called a transponder. Older transponders only report altitude

    • You are incorrect. Transponders (including ADS-B in 2020) are only required for - Operations within Class A, Class B, and Class C airspace. - Operations within 30 nautical miles of the primary airport within Class B airspace from the surface to 10,000 feet msl (see airports listed below). - Operations above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of Class B and C airspace. - Operations above 10,000 feet msl in the contiguous 48 states, excluding the airspace at and below 2,500 feet agl. See https:// [aopa.org]
      • by DanDD ( 1857066 )
        I am not incorrect, and you've omitted a very significant qualifier for the exemptions you've listed: an electrical system. From the AOPA link you provided:

        Exemptions
        Aircraft not originally certificated with an engine-driven electrical system or subsequently have not been certified with such a system installed, balloons, or gliders may conduct operations:

        • In the airspace within 30 nautical miles of the listed airports as long as operations are conducted:
        • Outside of Class A, B, and C airspace.
        • Below the
        • It specifies an "engine-driven" electrical system. Most drones do not have an engine-driven electrical system.

          • by DanDD ( 1857066 )
            Hello Pedant. Or Sophist. Or perhaps both, a pedaphist, or maybe a sophipedant. You know very well that most drones have an electrical system, and you know the intent of the regulations. As I pointed out, wording and regulations are evolving along with new technology.

            Your drone has an electrical system, and the day requiring your drone to have a transponder is coming:
            ADS-B for Drones [uavionix.com]
            • The FAA has been amusing itself by passing regulations intended to keep drones on the ground to keep the skies clear for flying buses and FAA-licensed pilots; it sticks in the FAAs and licensed pilots' craws that any child can obtain a bit of floating latex (and especially mylar); drones piloted by ordinary humans who haven't spent years learning the proper radio calls and paperwork to file must drive them batty. Might matter for commercial drones; non-commercial ones are unpoliceable, just like those myla

              • by DanDD ( 1857066 )
                I hear very clearly your frustration over what many perceive to be an out of control and out of touch government bureaucracy in the FAA. Pilots feel the same way, although probably for different reasons. Also, aviation is not supposed to be an old boys club, open only to a privileged few. There are many ways to fly. The sky is big, the more the merrier! As drone technology increases, it will benefit all aviation.

                The intent of FAA regulations is to ensure safe operation and interaction of all aircraft

        • No, this says aircraft without engine driven electrical systems are exempt from even some of the areas I mentioned (e.g. above 10,000 MSL). See FAR 92.215 if you want the exact wording: http://www.flightsimaviation.c... [flightsimaviation.com]. All (part 91) aircraft aren't required to have transponders unless they are in one of the four areas listed above... aircraft without electrical systems are also exempt from a few more. Many GA aircraft don't even have transponders installed.
          • by DanDD ( 1857066 )
            Powered parachutes and gyroplanes in rapidly diminishing class G airspace are just a technicality. For now.
  • Genie's out of the bottle, and neither the FAA nor DJIs weak-sauce attempt to corner the market by suggesting the mandating of a technology they just happen to have ready in their back pocket (probably protected with some bogus patents) is going to stop it. Yeah, they can hit you with a jillion-dollar fine for operating your drone with an open-source controller, but that requires they catch you first, and the FAA lacks the manpower.

    • Download it onto the local cops, switch it from regulation to legislation. In most cases, I expect it'd be similar in severity to a bylaw offense on the order of trespass to property or a noise complaint.

      Fly a drone without a transponder and markings, it's open season to HERF it. Fly one with, and you can be found and dealt with. Of course, the cops are going to need HERF guns (even if only one per police station). Presumably ones with a built-in transponder reader. And they're going to need some trainin

      • Nobody in their right is going to give the local cops HERF guns; they'll be shooting everyone and everything with them ("I saw a drone!") and causing all sorts of damage. The actual drones, of course, will be gone long before the cops show up.

  • Probably not so good at identifying a specific drone.
    There would always be a defense of "yes I was flying in the area, no that's not my drone the complainant saw"

    Before anyone says "but commercial aircraft have RF transponders" - Commercial aircraft also have big numbers printed on them too, so a picture can positively identify them. They're scanned by radar and their transponders send out GPS coordinates too. Their signals are constantly monitored and their flight paths recorded.

  • That in the Uniteed States this part "Anyone with an appropriate receiver could receive the ID number, but the database linking the ID with the registered owner would only be available to government agencies." concerns me most. Are they leaving a backdoor in the product and giving the government the key, or will they need a warrant to get those records in the U.S.?
  • Good luck with that.

    I work with the experts that go to bat both with/for the FAA on many key technologies. I wrote to the FAA about this exact solution over two years ago, before the problem was even that prominent in the news.

    Crickets....

    No reply.
    No thanks for the idea, but...
    What, not even a demeaning rejection form letter?

    I take it that some random Chinese manufacturer has more clout than a UARC research scientist?

    Ok, this is the New Government we are talking about here. Maybe I should have ju

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