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DJI Unveils Technology To Identify and Track Airborne Drones (suasnews.com) 61

garymortimer shares a report from sUAS News: DJI, the world's leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, has unveiled AeroScope, its new solution to identify and monitor airborne drones with existing technology that can address safety, security and privacy concerns. AeroScope uses the existing communications link between a drone and its remote controller to broadcast identification information such as a registration or serial number, as well as basic telemetry, including location, altitude, speed and direction. Police, security agencies, aviation authorities and other authorized parties can use an AeroScope receiver to monitor, analyze and act on that information. AeroScope has been installed at two international airports since April, and is continuing to test and evaluate its performance in other operational environments. AeroScope works with all current models of DJI drones, which analysts estimate comprise over two-thirds of the global civilian drone market. Since AeroScope transmits on a DJI drone's existing communications link, it does not require new on-board equipment or modifications, or require extra steps or costs to be incurred by drone operators. Other drone manufacturers can easily configure their existing and future drones to transmit identification information in the same way.
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DJI Unveils Technology To Identify and Track Airborne Drones

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Manufacturers of flight controllers and radio systems will invariably provide an opt-out option, because where there's market demand, there's a market player.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      DJI owns the entire ecosystem. You cannot simply replace the DJI controller with some aftermarket one as they are tightly integrated. The only way to opt-out is to not use a DJI drone.

      • HobbyKing to the rescue.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        Yes you can [ardupilot.org] I'm kind of surprised more of a market doesn't exist actually. Governments and military shouldn't be using closed source devices from Chinese companies. Seems like it would be in their interest to toss a few million into open source projects that let them develop drones which have the feature set and reliability they're interested in without worry of the devices "phoning home" or being bricked when they're most needed.
        • Seems like it would be in their interest to toss a few million into open source projects

          That's a few million tax dollars they don't need to spend. DJI drones are not military. The government uses them for non-critical activities, and putting a few million dollars into building special ones just for them would be a complete waste of money.

          Disclaimer: I work with (not at) a government agency that uses a lot of DJI drones, and none of them are "most needed" (critical) uses. They're cheap research tools.

          • by DrXym ( 126579 )
            DJI drones are used by the military and other government departments for surveying etc. A few million is a drop in the ocean given that a fully auditible software / hardware and aftermarket solution pops out of the end. They don't even have to drop the million in funding. They could offer prizes or some other form of incentive for drones that can do certain things, or improvements to the user experience, e.g. the control software. The main purpose is to make the community gravitate away from proprietary to
            • DJI drones are used by the military and other government departments for surveying etc. A few million is a drop in the ocean

              I know what they are used for. Non-military operations. They aren't strapping hand grenades on them and taking out gun emplacements, for example.

              That "few million" you claim is a "drop in the ocean" would be a large part of the USGS budget, or any other government agency, and it is unlikely any agency would try to get it past the funding sources given the existence of COTS solutions already available.

              The main purpose is to make the community gravitate away from proprietary to open source.

              The funding for USGS, USACE, etc, is not there to "make a community gravitate", it is to get a job done. "

              • by DrXym ( 126579 )

                That "few million" you claim is a "drop in the ocean" would be a large part of the USGS budget, or any other government agency, and it is unlikely any agency would try to get it past the funding sources given the existence of COTS solutions already available.

                It's still a tiny amount of money and the US has the likes of DARPA (budget 3 billion) for handing out grants for things like this. And defeatism is hardly the correct attitude when there is a clearly identifiable problem with an achievable, remedial solution.

                The funding for USGS, USACE, etc, is not there to "make a community gravitate", it is to get a job done. "A few million dollars" is a very large expenditure, and it is just not going to happen.

                Agencies provide funding for all kinds of projects. Don't be so defeatist. It is clearly in the USA's interest to not use software produced by an adversary and open source is the easiest, most cost effective way they can avoid doing that.

                • It's still a tiny amount of money

                  Not to the agencies that are using the UAS. A few million dollars is a large part of their budget.

                  And defeatism is hardly the correct attitude

                  You've never worked with a government agency, I see.

                  when there is a clearly identifiable problem with an achievable, remedial solution.

                  Except there is no clearly identifiably problem. The agencies that use DJI, for example, aren't using them for military purposes. If DJI decides to ground their aircraft tomorrow, it's not a huge deal. Nobody dies because they couldn't perform a military support mission. A day's work in the field is delayed. It happens. They buy a different UAS and move on. T

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      If drone owners don't go along voluntarily they will be forced into it by government regulation. Which do you prefer?
  • by GoRK ( 10018 ) on Thursday October 12, 2017 @07:26PM (#55359901) Homepage Journal

    So DJI is selling a backdoor device to "authorized parties" which can intercept the private telemetry of any of their aircraft. That is some bullshit right there.

    So right now it's limited to telemetry downlink packets. How long until they allow these parties to see the video downlink? How long until they let them take over the command and control uplink?

    Requiring hobby aircraft to beacon their telemetry in the clear (similar to ADS-B in commercial aviation or APRS in amateur radio) would be a whole other matter.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Agreed. This is my problem with the whole appliance philosophy. You purchase an "appliance" (smart watch, personal NAS, hobby drone, etc.) based on the advertised capabilities and features at the time-of-purchase. Now the company you bought it from decides to alter the deal (cue the Darth Vader breathing noises). Now, through all but mandatory firmware updates, those features and capabilities are changed and you have extremely limited control on them. Better yet, they abandon the platform to a third pa

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      A stingray or Dirtbox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] for a drone?
    • by AaronW ( 33736 )

      I expect it to happen if drone operators continue to do stupid stuff that interferes with aircraft. I'm sorry, but there are too many stupid people playing with drones to have forced this because they clearly can't regulate themselves. Imagine the outcry when people die because of some stupid drone operator hitting an aircraft at some critical point. They have already caused mid-air collisions and have interfered with emergency responders.

      Here's a case that resulted in damage to the helicopter:
      https://www.b [bloomberg.com]

      • by AaronW ( 33736 )

        Here's another good article on a study of what sort of damage could be caused to commercial aircraft from hitting drones:

        https://news.aviation-safety.n... [aviation-safety.net]

        Notably:

        Non-birdstrike certified helicopter windscreens have very limited resilience to the impact of a drone, well below normal cruise speeds.

        The non-birdstrike certified helicopter windscreen results can also be applied to general aviation aeroplanes which also do not have a birdstrike certification requirement.

        Although the birdstrike certified windscreens tested had greater resistance than non-birdstrike certified, they could still be critically damaged at normal cruise speeds.

        Helicopter tail rotors are also very vulnerable to the impact of a drone, with modelling showing blade failures from impacts with the smaller drone components tested.

        Airliner windscreens are much more resistant, however, the study showed that there is a risk of critical windscreen damage under certain impact conditions:

        It was found that critical damage did not occur at high, but realistic impact speeds, with the 1.2 kg class drone components.


        However, critical damage did occur to the airliner windscreens at high, but realistic, impact speeds, with the 4 kg class drone components used in this study.

        The construction of the drone plays a significant role in the impact of a collision. Notably, the 400 g class drone components, which included exposed metal motors, caused critical failure of the helicopter windscreens at lower speeds than the 1.2 kg class drone components, which had plastic covering over their motors. This is believed to have absorbed some of the shock of the collision, reducing the impact.

        The testing and modelling showed that the drone components used can cause significantly more damage than birds of equivalent masses at speeds lower than required to meet birdstrike certification standards.

    • So right now it's limited to telemetry downlink packets. How long until they allow these parties to see the video downlink? How long until they let them take over the command and control uplink?

      That's entirely dependant on how much parties are willing to pay for access. It's money, it's always money.

  • happen often and are in many cases fatal: http://aviationweek.com/busine... [aviationweek.com]

    There is the technology to conduct the cables underground, but it is more expensive than hanging wires in the airspace. It is a really serious problem, which concerns medical, military, police, etc. aircraft.

    Dealing with this problem requires investing in the research and development, rebuilding infrastructure. It is much easier to make noise about RC model aircraft hobby.
  • It's about damned time someone did something to rein in drone owners who refuse to be responsible with their toys. I hope there are many arrests and confiscations of drones from people who think they're above the law; they'll serve as examples to the rest of you who are not responsible that playtime is over and you'll either have to obey the law and be responsible or face the consequences.

    Needless to say I'm going to draw all sorts of fire from entitled drone owners who think they can do whatever the hel

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