Earlier this week, we reported on proposed drone regulation from the Trump Administration that would allow federal officials to track, reroute or destroy your drone if needed. Now, we receive news from France where similar, but perhaps less drastic, new drone legislation and regulation is in the works as well. If the new rules come into effect, remote drone identification may become a reality for French drone pilots as soon as July 1st, 2018. Luckily, popular (pro)consumer drones such as the DJI Spark, Mavic Air, and Mavic Pro would be exempt.
Remote drone identification
The French drone site, HelicoMicro, reported that the French Federation of Model Airplanes (Fédération Française d’Aéromodélisme) had just published 3 draft documents (1, 2, 3) that outline the new drone requirements if they become law.
The initial proposed French ‘drones law’ is from 2015 and it did not make any distinction between the difference in size and weight of the various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are on the market. A later proposal from 2016 is an adjusted version of the same package but limited to drones that weigh 800 grams or more. This equates to 1.76 Lbs for us in the US and means that drones such as the DJI Mavic Spark, Air, and Mavic Pro would be exempt from this new rule. The Mavic Pro weighs 1.62 lbs (734 g) according to DJI’s website and just makes the cut. Phew! A Phantom 4 Pro would be required to have some form of identification under the proposed French law as it weighs 1,388 g or 3.06 Lbs
Details of the proposed legislation
The draft documents suggest that every drone that weighs more than 800 grams would have:
1) an electronic identification system, that may or may not be integrated into the aircraft, that can be read-out remotely when in flight. Under the proposed rules, you would be allowed to use one drone identifier for multiple unmanned aerial vehicles of identical mass range belonging to the same owner.
The data that must be transmitted remotely includes:
- Identification number of the reporting device
- Geographical position and altitude
- The date and time of the position
- The coordinates of the position of the take-off point of the aircraft
- The direction and the speed of the device
The drone ID information will be broadcast using “802.11N WiFi at 2.4 GHz, in Ad-Hoc mode, in a single frame, unencrypted, sent every 3 seconds and every 30 meters when there is displacement.”
2) Need to have a signaling light. An additional light that signals in Morse code the letter U to identify itself as an unmanned aerial vehicle. The signaling light must be:
- Visible at night by an observer on the ground, up to a maximum height of 150 meters and in a radius of at least 150 meters.
- Flashing according to the code U in Morse: two short flashes then a long flash.
- Of a different color from those defined for air navigation. The use of green, red and white colors is therefore prohibited.
Flying a drone that weighs more than 800 grams and that is not outfitted with an electronic identifier or without a signaling light can be fined up to 750 euros. Broadcasting an electronic ID that does not belong to that particular drone or drone pilot is punishable with a 5th class fine with a maximum of 1,500 euros or as much as 3,500 euros for repeat offenders.
If the new rules are turned into law, they may become effective as soon as July 1st, 2018. Fines will not be issued until January 1st, 2019 to give drone manufacturers and drone pilots a 6-month window to adjust to the new rules.
Exceptions to these new rules will only be made for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are used for leisure or competition purposes in affiliation with a federation that has been approved by the French Ministry of Sports, on a specific location. Drones that are flown indoors or in covered areas are exempt as well as drones that are operated by the State, such as customs, public security, civil security, and police.
Even though the need for drone identification and even drone interference seems to be clear, these proposed rules are only applicable for France and seem to have been developed in isolation of other countries. Most drone manufacturers sell their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in many countries over the world and many drone pilots, especially professional operators, travel internationally with their drones as well. If every country develops their own set of rules and/or required solution, it will become a nightmare for both drone manufacturers and pilots to comply. We would recommend that governments and drone makers work together and create one international standard based on best practice. DJI recently launched Aeroscope in an attempt to do just that.
Another concern many drone makers and pilots have about the electronic identifier is what the impact will be on the drone? Drones, among other things, need to be aerodynamic, agile and preferably have long flight times and currently, the specs the proposed electronic identifier are unknown. The size, weight and energy use of the identifier will impact the flying characteristics and possibly even the transmission signal.
What do you think about drone identification and the hardware that may be required to make it all work? Let us know in the comments below.
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