This new control system uses a 4G modem and SIM embedded within each drone to enable real-time tracking of the drone with up to 50 metre accuracy. The system is intended for use by drone operators helping them to identify and stay clear of unauthorized airspace zones. Authorized bodies such as air traffic control will be able to use the technology to repel unauthorized intrusions into controlled airspace. In addition to position monitoring the system can help drone pilots with beyond line of sight control. The telecom company aims to use the technology to secure a central role in the development of a framework that would be capable of integrating drones into international airspace safely. Other features of the technology include
- protective geofencing, with drones pre-programmed to land automatically or return to the operator when approaching predetermined exclusion zones (such as airports and prisons);
- emergency remote control intervention to provide the authorities with the means of overriding a drone operator’s control to alter a drone’s flight path or force it to land;
- SIM-based e-identification and owner registration.
Vodafone has placed their design in the public domain and proposes it as an international standard.
The European Commission says they support the trials of Vodafone’s tracking technology but suggest “low risk” consumer drones would be exempt.
Vodafone’s system, unlike Intel’s proposed Open Drone ID, would require payment of a monthly fee for the cellular data service, possibly for each aircraft used. Such fees would quickly kill off hobby use of small model aircraft if required for all small aircraft. Many regulators view 2 kg as a cut off point for regulation – however, large numbers of traditional model aircraft exceed the 2 kg threshold.
Criminals and terrorists are not likely to fly drones with built in trackers, anyway…