A world leader, the Chinese firm markets a system that allows police forces to locate its drones near sensitive areas.
The rise of UAVs has, in turn, created an emerging but insistent demand: the possibility of detecting them.
The international regulations, which will be implemented in the coming months, provide, like the future European standards, that each aircraft must have a registration in the form of an electronic signature.
At the same time, sensitive areas around airports, nuclear power stations, and major public events are beginning to be equipped with sophisticated detection systems. The Chinese DJI, the world’s number one leisure drones, wants to occupy this field by offering the public authorities equipment capable of locating its drones, AeroScope, unveiled on 12 October in Brussels. A way to expand its activity, but also to watch over its image as a company respectful of sensitive data, which has been somewhat shaken up in recent months.
Two-thirds of the world market – AeroScope is a tracking system currently limited to DJI drones. The Shenzhen-based company has between 60 and 65 % of the market for leisure equipment, which is a significant basis. Also, this feature, which identifies – but not neutralizes – an aircraft, does not require any updates from the pilot. AeroScope is a receiver, available in mobile (medium size suitcase) or a fixed mode, able to detect – “up to a distance of 5 km”, say its designers – a small drone, identifying the wifi link that connects it to the pilot’s radio control. Once located, the AeroScope’s display receives telemetry data from the drone: GPS position, altitude, speed, but also the serial number of the aircraft as well as its direction and location from which it took off.
Two airports under test
DJI, which does not indicate the price of the equipment (which will have to be much cheaper than sophisticated detectors, derived from military radars, to be widely distributed), only indicates that it will be available in the coming weeks. In addition to airports – two of them are currently in the testing phase – AeroScope is intended for use by the police, for example, to monitor an event, or in prisons to detect the approach of suspect UAVs.
The challenge now is to convince the competition – Parrot, Yuneec, GoPro – to integrate a compatible wifi signature (DJI is willing to “open its protocol”) to make its drones like the DJI Care Mavic Pro identifiable. On the other hand, it will be more difficult for “homemade” quadcopters by enlightened amateurs. To protect consumer privacy, AeroScope will not automatically transmit personally identifiable information until required by regulation,” says DJI.
Although nothing to date has substantiated these fears, DJI’s leaders have decided to take immediate action. A few days before presenting AeroScope, they announced the release of a “Local Data” mode to interrupt the Internet connection of the DJI GO 4 application to ensure that no data leaves the drone or tablet used to fly it. Even if it means depriving itself of certain information, such as local flight restrictions.
This electronic equipment, which no one can guarantee will be completely effective – particularly against UAVs flying in programmed mode – also allows DJI to take the lead while awaiting the introduction of registration and identification devices that will soon be imposed on recreational UAV users.