DJI demonstrates a new app solution in hopes to meet future regulatory changes within the drone industry regarding drone identification.

This month has seen the introduction by the UK CAA of the drone and model aircraft registration  and education service (DMARES.. right?) and one of the main players in drone manufacture has thrown its weight and research behind a new concept ‘drone to phone’ solution to keep our skies safe. But is it all its cracked up to be?

DJI Inspire

On the 5th of November, as the skies were filled with fireworks and the smell of toffee apples, the CAA launches the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service. It’s a bit of a mouthful, so we will just call its DMARES from now on.. because that’s so much easier to say. DMARES. Got it.

Basically, the DMARES is a scheme in which you take an online test the check you’re not a complete buffoon and are aware of the rules of the sky in relation to drones. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a good start. This gives you a Flyer ID which tells you “Congratulations. You’re not a total buffoon and you’ve manage to absorb some of the information we have given you.”

Once you’ve got your Flyer ID, you are then invited to get an Operator ID, much like a registration plate for your drone. This must be displayed on your drone, and there’s a few little rules just to make sure you’re not hiding it right inside so people can’t see it. Oh, did I mention they charge you £9 for the privilege? Not the end of the world in terms of cost, and I’m glad to see that its basically the same as a fishing rod licence, especially as when the DMARES was announced, they were touting nearer the £16 mark.

Blackpool Tower Sunrise

 So this is going to keep our skies safe, right?

Well the DMARES has some critics, and it’s easy to see why. I would argue that of the people who have intentions to do stupid things with their aircraft (yes, drones are aircraft) I would not expect them to actually sit the test, or register, or put their Operator ID on their drone. Stupid people are going to do stupid stuff. Regardless.

So up steps DJI with their latest innovation. They have designed an app in which anyone within radio range of a drone can pick up its signal and learn the location and direction in which it is travelling. Ok. Great. We can pretty much pick that up from the ground with our human eyeballs, so what else have you got? The app can also provide the user with an identification number for the pilot. Presumably this is to do with the Operator ID, and its nice to see it being phased into their software if it is.

The app can also show the location of the pilot. Oh. Right. Well why would they need to know that? I can think of Police and Security personnel wanting to know the location of the pilot, so that if there is an issue, they can address it with the pilot. That makes sense. The bad news is, not everyone out there has good intentions. In the wrong hands, you could see people using this app to track down the operators, who are stood there often alone with lots of expensive equipment.  

In fact, DJI insisted themselves that the new app offers an “easy way for anyone with a smartphone to monitor nearby drones for enhanced safety, security and peace of mind”.

It’s that “anyone” that gets me. I don’t want to be out flying and have anyone be able to fine me and my equipment.

aerial photography blackpool
Drones can be used to a variety of applications

And all of this is coming as knee jerk reactioms to reports of a drone in the sky above Gatwick airport. A drone that the world media and their camera equipment failed to get even one substantiated photograph of. The drone that one of the “credible witnesses” has actually confirmed that what he saw was a crane.

I understand there is going to be need for added regulation, and some bits of all of this I like, and the general idea is alright. But they really need to be lobbying industry professionals before making sweeping announcements like this.