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SECURITY: DJI makes app to identify drones and track down its pilot

PortandTerminal.com, November 15, 2019

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption and give members of the public peace of mind

NEW YORK –  China’s DJI, the world’s largest commercial drone maker, said on Wednesday it is developing technology that would allow the public to track the registrations of drones in flight using just a smartphone, amid a broader industry push to make such data available.

The technique makes use of a protocol called “Wi-Fi Aware”, with which the drone essentially broadcasts information about itself. The app would quickly identify a nearby drone, and pinpoint the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.

Remote drone identification is not new technology but DJI is proposing making it widely available to the public as early as 2020. Identifying drones from a distance has mostly been available only to businesses and the military, leaving regular people to fend for themselves or not at all.

Commercially available drones have been used multiple times to disrupt traffic at airports around the world

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption and give members of the public peace of mind. Drones have increasingly become weaponized and used in recent attacks on Saudi oil terminals. Commercially available drones have also been used to disrupt traffic at major airports around the world.

But experts believe sophisticated criminals would still be able to circumvent detection.

“It’s going to be very useful against rogue drones,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the impacts of the drone industry.

“But it’s not going to be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, because these are going to be the first people to hack this system.”

DJI explained that “Using a simple app, anyone within radio range of the drone can receive that signal and learn the location, altitude, speed and direction of the drone, as well as an identification number for the drone and the location of the pilot.”

However, a spokesman said that will only happen once pending regulation regarding remote identification of drones has been agreed upon.

He added that DJI has not yet decided whether it will force its customers to install the update.

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