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The US regulation regarding UAVs will have to overcome an important technical hurdle  – remote identification – before the unmanned aerial vehicle industry can move on.

After the execution of Part 107 regarding the operation of commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds, the next two scheduled Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) were to be regarding flights over people and extended operations (BVLOS).  

Flights over people were originally supposed to be the relatively easy ones. The first question any law enforcement or first responder needs to have answered when encountering an unknown drone situation is “Who is that, and are they allowed to be here?” Yet, there is no tool on the market that allows the officer to answer that question (not talking about solutions such as radars). The legislative term is “remote identification,” and the legislative deadline to develop requirements for remote identification is July 2017.

A UAS Vision article offers a concept for a possible solution with today’s technology.

There is a free smartphone app called Plane Finder AR Free by Pinkfroot. With it, you literally point your smartphone at the sky and it shows you nearby aircraft and who they are.  This is accomplished with the use of ADS-B transceivers onboard the aircraft, and a network of enthusiasts on the ground with receivers all networked into the cloud-based platform.  This particular architecture isn’t ideal for remote identification because it uses a ground-based network – but the concept that the app demonstrates can serve as a basis to a possible solution with 3 components: a transmitter onboard the drone, a local receiver for law enforcement or other security professionals, and an app for display of identification information

The Transmitter – the “DroneTag” – ADS-B frequency and message structure would derive the most benefits for remote identification because it would double as a Sense and Avoid (SAA) aid, or by shifting frequencies into an available band.

A low-cost receiver, the pingBuddy, by UAVionix, can be used for the purpose. PingBuddy has a Wi-Fi hotspot capability to transmit the target information for display on any number of apps.There are already a number of apps for display that work with the pingBuddy receiver.  Perhaps a purpose built one like the Plane Finder AR will be needed, perhaps not. Likely, the app would have access to the FAA registration database to pull up additional information on the operator.