The system would require all small model-sized aircraft to transmit a beacon using Bluetooth 5 “long range” features to announce a drone’s identification, latitude, longitude, and other data at up to 1,000 meters.
Police, military and airports would be permitted to use high gain antenna systems to track model aircraft at up to many miles away. Potentially, all model aircraft flights in the inhabited areas of the U.S. would be tracked in real-time.
Featured image is from the OpenDroneID.org web site.
The system would also require use of Bluetooth 4 technology so that existing devices like current smart phones could receive the signals (at closer range up to 200 meters).
Data transmission would be divided into “static” information and “dynamic” information. Static information would be items such as the drones FAA registration number and a globally unique 32-bit identifier while dynamic information would be information such as positions.
Both would be transmitted every 3 seconds while the drone is flying.
- The drone’s ID beacon must contain registration number or call sign, the manufacturer identified with a 3 digit code, the model number, the type of aircraft (fixed wing, quad, etc), weight and possibly size of the drone. Each drone would be assigned a unique, individual 32-bit identification code.
- Position reports must include latitude, longitude, pressure altitude, height above ground (AGL) from the initial take off point, horizontal speed in meters/second and vertical speed in m/s.
- Drones must transmit the latitude and longitude of the operators current location.Drone operators would be required to remain within a 20 meter radius of the drones take off point. If the drone operator were to move, then the operator’s remote control unit would be required to update the drone aircraft with the current location. Current remote control systems do not have this feature and would likely need to be replaced at a cost of up to hundreds of dollars for each remote control unit.
- Drones could provide optional information as a 21-byte text message describing the purpose of the flight.
- A placeholder is included for a future authentication scheme. The current draft could be spoof’ed to give a false ID or a faked ID of someone else.
Anyone with a smart phone could, at any time, learn who is flying any model aircraft, their current location, and via their registration number, their home address.
To add context to potential policy issues, imagine if the government required all vehicles, including bicycles, or personal devices like handguns, or personal cameras to broadcast a data beacon every 3 seconds. Or go one step further and require that everyone broadcast beacons while moving about in public. A few days ago I satirically proposed that pedestrians will be required to carry personal beacon transponders to solve the problem of automated cars having difficulty recognizing the unpredictable patterns of pedestrians. May be that was not a joke? We know that Google tracks the location of every Android user in the country – the tracking features cannot be turned off. This beacon requirement would allow the tracking of all hobby model aircraft operators each time they fly their aircraft. Combined with high gain antenna systems – and the potential placement of “drone beacon receiving systems” throughout communities – this is potentially, indeed likely, to be used to track all flights of all model aircraft over most of the inhabited areas of the United States.
- There is not yet an estimate on costs, weight or battery impact of adding this to all existing drones and hobbyist model aircraft.
- Would this apply to all model aircraft, even those too small to be retrofitted, thereby grounding them?
- Would regulation require that each model aircraft’s beacon ID be tested before every flight?
- Would beacons be required for aircraft flown at established model flying club airfields, or only away from air fields, or only in populated areas?
- It is not clear if this would also apply to kites or hand launched remote controlled gliders.
- Criminals could readily disable – or not install – beacon systems on their aircraft. It’s not hard to build your own, for example. Thus, the beacon ID requirement would not prevent crime or attacks from the air.
Best guess: a variation of this draft standard will be adopted by the US FAA and require implementation on all model aircraft by 2020.