China's DJI unveils drone-to-phone tracking

November 14, 2019 10:04
DJI Technology aims to roll out a free app in 2020 that would allow its users for the first time to identify any modern drone with a smartphone. Photo: Bloomberg/AFP

China’s DJI, the world’s largest commercial drone maker, said it is developing technology that would allow the public to track the registrations of drones in flight using just a smartphone, Reuters reports.

SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. aims to roll out a free app in 2020, pending regulatory approval, that would allow its users for the first time to identify any modern drone with a phone, company executives told the news agency on Wednesday.

The push for remote identification technology comes amid regulatory calls for greater oversight of drone flight, on fears that untraceable, unmanned aircraft could be used for spying or accidentally disrupt commercial flights.

DJI, which has an estimated 70 percent market share according to industry analysts, demonstrated its drone-to-phone transmission app at the United Nations aviation agency’s Drone Enable conference in Montreal.

“We’ve created a remote identification solution that works with what people already have,” said Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI.

While remote identification technology is already available on the market, the services are for purchase, involve equipment, and are often aimed at groups like companies, airports and law enforcement, industry executives said.

DJI says its app would work on drones within a 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) range using WiFi Aware-enabled smartphones.

Unauthorized drone flying and sightings have led to flight delays and cancellations at airports, costing the aviation industry millions of dollars.

The industry is eyeing ways to better track and identify drones similar to the use of license plates for cars, ahead of eventual rules from regulators like the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

By improving the ability to track drones, companies like DJI aim to avert a crackdown on the usage of unmanned aircraft at a time of growing demand.

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