Drone giant DJI recently demonstrated a direct drone-to-phone system that remotely identifies drones in flight.
Photo credit: DJI
The demo took place at a park in Montreal, Canada during the third annual Drone Enable conference of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Remote ID functions as an electronic license plate for drones, allowing anyone who is curious about a drone in the sky to learn more about what it’s doing. Around the world, aviation authorities have said remote ID is the key to allowing more complex drone use, and to solving concerns about safety and security.
– Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs
Participants in the demonstration used Google, Samsung, and Xiaomi smartphones to receive Wi-Fi Aware signals from a DJI Mavic Air drone and a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drone.
About DJI’s Drone-to-Phone Remote ID System
DJI’s remote ID system is WiFi-based and provides a quick, easy way to monitor drones in the air from a smartphone.
The new system is the product of the broadcast methodology pioneered by DJI AeroScope, the professional remote ID system first introduced in 2017 for airports, prisons, stadiums and other critical locations protected by police departments and other government agencies.
It uses Wi-Fi Aware protocol for mobile phones, which means that a connection between the drone and the app can be made without having to complete a two-way connection.
Photo credit: DJI
In initial testing, the Wi-Fi Aware signals can be received from more than one kilometer away. Because the system does not need to connect to a Wi-Fi base station, a cellular network, or any other external system, it can work in rural areas with no telecom service.
Using DJI’s remote ID drone-to-phone app, anyone within range of a drone in flight can receive its radio signal on their phone and learn not only the drone’s unique ID or serial number, but also:
- The drone’s altitude
- The drone’s speed
- The done’s direction
- The location of the drone
- The location of the drone pilot
To ensure compliance with anticipated legal requirements, DJI’s new remote ID system was built to conform with the forthcoming ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International standard for broadcast drone remote ID.
The ASTM standard was developed over 18 months by a large group of stakeholders in the drone industry and in the government, and following it will almost certainly be a requirement when the FAA makes remote ID mandatory.
Ease of Use
DJI has been touting the ease of use for their new remote ID system, and with good reason.
Other proposed remote ID solutions require pilots to take fairly involved steps, like adding telecommunications equipment to their drone, connecting to a cell tower or buying a data plan, and subscribing to an ID service provider.
But using DJI’s drone-to-phone solution, all a drone pilot needs to do to be compliant with remote ID requirements is to update the software on their drone. That’s it—no extra steps or extra costs.
When Will It Be Available?
DJI says they are awaiting further direction from aviation regulators and the final publication of the ASTM International standard before releasing the drone-to-phone app and associated firmware updates.
Remote ID Requirements Are Coming Soon
Remote ID requirements are just around the corner here in the U.S., not to mention abroad. Countries are pushing for remote ID not just because it’s crucial for safety, but also because it will help enable a broad UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) framework for the safe operations of both manned and unmanned aircraft in increasingly crowded skies.
In January of this year, the FAA released an RFI (Request for Information) asking for companies in the drone industry to ”develop and demonstrate data sharing techniques for remote ID.”
Just last month, the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) proposed a voluntary program that would encourage drone pilots to equip their drones with remote ID technology in exchange for certain privileges.
Proposed privileges include an easier approval process for pilots looking to fly outside the parameters established by Part 107, such as flying beyond line of sight, over people, and at night, as well as monetary and employment incentives.
This voluntary program is a precursor to the FAA establishing a mandatory remote ID proposal, which the FAA has said it will release by the end of the year. The rulemaking process will take more than a year to complete, but an FAA industry committee has urged manufacturers to move forward with developing voluntary remote ID systems in the interim—systems like the one DJI just demonstrated in Montreal.
And the U.S. isn’t the only country pushing to implement remote ID.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will impose remote ID requirements in July 2020, and aviation regulators in countries throughout the world are moving to require remote ID systems amid mounting drone-related safety and security concerns.
Do you think remote ID is a good thing for the drone industry? Chime in on this thread in the UAV Coach community forum to share your thoughts and opinions.