As with any tech that can be used for ill-gotten gain or illegal purposes, use of drones to compromise public safety, as well as security or privacy is a growing concern.
So, who is leading the way in drone detection systems? Is the game of cat and mouse finally swinging back in favour of organisations seeking to prevent drones harming their activities?
Use of drones continues to grow and the unique features of such crafts make them difficult to track and stop. An unmanned flying device is not easily restricted by fences, security guards as well as other physical measures.
There are particular well-documented safety and privacy fears surrounding the use of drones near airports, at large public events and for compromising security at prisons.
DJI & AeroScope
At the end of 2017, drone manufacturer DJI launched AeroScope in a proactive bid to stop its product being used for unethical purposes. Units made by the Chinese manufacturer are estimated to make up two-thirds of civilian drones flown globally.
AeroScope is a drone detection system which identifies units being flown in a specific area. Once a drone is located, AeroScope tracks the real-time telemetry data of the DJI aircraft and can provide security staff with the unit’s serial code, make and model, position, speed and latitude and the location of the operator.
Such data allows teams to enact drone mitigation procedures. This, therefore, allows them to take action against the threat and alert law enforcement to the illegal activity.
It was a bold step by DJI. One which set down a marker for companies who make drones to ensure their products are used safely and with accountability in mind for those who fly them. As regulators begin to introduce the means by which to register and identify unmanned aircraft. AeroScope will likely meet such requirements.
What does the future hold?
By 2020, it’s estimated there will be 20 billion drones in the air worldwide. That’s a staggering number but regulators have not been able to keep up with the expansion in drone technology. It was notable for a manufacturer to take such proactive action in response to fears about a product it sells.
The initial version of AeroScope was only able to track units produced by DJI. Later releases are planned to include drones made by other manufacturers.
Some pilots of drones may be concerned about their personal details being shared with third parties. AeroScope only provides information on the serial number and registered email address of the owner.
DJI have also been at pains to stress that the information received and transmitted about a drone in flight is not sent to an Internet-based service. This allays fears around the privacy of individual drone operators. It negates the potential for hackers to gain access to such data.
DJI are staying one step ahead of the game
Since AeroScope was first launched, DJI has released continued updates to keep the system one step ahead. One such innovation has been to allow drone operators to voluntarily identify their flight operations to enforcement agencies.
A simple explanation of the reasons for flying a drone at a specific location and for how long can go a long way to reduce concerns of those monitoring drone use. Indeed, for pilots flying drones in sensitive areas, this may be recommended.
Certainly, AeroScope continues DJI’s efforts to stay ahead of the rest of the drone industry. The company have quickly positioned themselves as a manufacturer also concerned with safety. Also, one with a keen eye on collaborating with regulators.
AeroScope has not been without its critics. DJI has been accused of ‘playing god’ with the data it can collect on the drone-using community. Governments around the world are already starting to implement drone detection, however. Thus, making industry observers conclude that DJI’s approach offers a real working solution. AeroScope looks set to stay and be a massive part of the future.
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