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Government wants digital IDs for drones



Department for Transport consultation paper proposes registry and police alert system … once the technology is developed

The Department for Transport (DfT) has advocated that drones should be made electronically identifiable so that owners’ details can be passed to the police if they are spotted breaking the law.

It proposed the measure as one of a number in a consultation paper on how to regulate the use of the fast emerging technology, saying it wishes to strike the right balance between public safety and allowing the economic opportunities to develop.

Other proposals include the mandatory registration of new drones, tougher penalties for illegal entry into no-fly zones, and the creation of new exclusion zones over sites such as prisons and airports.

The paper envisages a digital identification system embedded into all drones over a certain weight, so it would be recognisable to air traffic management systems and other airspace users. Anyone scanning for a drone would be able to record the identifier which, if it was breaking the law, could be checked against the police registry.

It would have to be a mandatory requirement to be effective, and applicable at a European level as there is already an international market for drones.

However, the DfT acknowledges that the technology to make this possible is still a few years away, and says it will keep its assessment under review as the market develops.

Life savers

Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “Drones have enormous economic potential and are already being used by emergency services, transport and energy providers and conservation groups to improve services, respond to incidents and save lives.

“While the vast majority of drone users are law abiding and have good intentions, some operators are not aware of the rules, or choose to break them, putting public safety, privacy and security at risk. The Government is taking a common sense approach to tackling this behaviour, ensuring the safe roll out of this technology.”

The consultation paper also suggests the department should look at the mandatory use of an app by drone pilots, which they would use to notify the authorities and other airspace users that they plan to fly in a certain area. It could also inform then when an area is out of bounds.

National air traffic controller NATS recently launched a mobile app for drone pilots, Drone Assist, to help them steer clear of airspace used by commercial aircraft.

The mandatory use of an app of this kind could be piloted in one or two small areas, the paper says.

The consultation is open until 15 March 2017.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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