Proposal for a "license plate for drones" at DARC confernece

At this week's Drones and Aerial Robotics conference, Joseph Hall gave a presentation that discussed some of the issues around the idea of drones needing a "license plate" (and presumably drone operators needing a "drivers license).

His slides are now available here.  

Also, here's an NBC article on the same topic, also taken from the conference. Excerpt:

One way to assure a minimum level of competence could be pre-use certification, a "driver license" of sorts for pilots who fly the birds. 

Operators of small military drones like Ravens are trained before they can use them, and Capt. Adam Gorrell — who trained drone pilots and flew them himself in the U.S. Air Force, before becoming a professor at the Air Force Academy — sees a similar training system working for domestic operators, too. A different, smaller craft perhaps wouldn't need the same amount of training time, but the "mark in the sand" for flight readiness could shifted accordingly, he said.

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Comment by Emery c. Chandler on October 13, 2013 at 6:49pm

just from initial view thats not a half bad idea. when I used to live next to fort hood there was a case in which some apache helicopters were stopping and viewing girls sunbathing on the beach. one of the ladies got his tail number and called it in and punishment was handed down.  i know right now there is little a drone can do for spying on our end, so for now it might not even be an issue, but tail numbers could be our solution  I would even say it would not be to bad registering it online as long as it is NOT federally controlled as that always seems to complicate things. but on the down side I can see people again abusing this, and i can also see people mistaking rc airplanes, or simple fpv for a drone.

Comment by Emery c. Chandler on October 13, 2013 at 6:49pm

*correction Beach= beach on the near by lake *not ocean

Comment by Overwatch on October 13, 2013 at 10:17pm

It is a bad idea, even the slides say why. The transponder is a 1lb brick, costs in the neighborhood of 5 grand and when boiled down, this is just the Gov forcing people to buy a product of select few companies, nothing else.

And, as usual, those with nefarious interest will simply not install that thing on their "drone", so it will, as is usual, punish law-abiding citizens only.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 13, 2013 at 11:10pm

Once again the not invented here syndrome strikes, I am at a loss to understand why the same rules being applied to great effect in other countries are just not rolled there. The USA is now six years behind Canada, Australia and Europe in this regard. Its looking very likely that they will be making that a neat 10 unless there is a radical policy change.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on October 13, 2013 at 11:27pm

Martin: I wonder what that transponder would cost/weigh if it were open sourced and not necessarily FAA certified (because it's not in a vehicle carrying people)

Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 14, 2013 at 12:06am

Well I am watching ADS-B right now on a $13 DVB T stick I am sure adding some TX sauce would be straightforward. When you buy a mode S transponder for your aircraft the vendor has to set up your ICAO identifier so that might be a stumbling point unless the units just send UAS as an identifier. The Australian idea of just notifying them of your airframe sub 1.5kg might be the trigger for an ICAO code for your ADS (B) device. ie to be legal tell the authority and get your number probably for a fee. It would make the detect sense and avoid issue start to disappear. Getting PPLs in a cub to comply might be tricky. But if you made a low cost device that worked for them as well perhaps not so much.

The end user and their qualification has to be thought about because you could close an international airport by switching on a device and driving around especially if you made it send say a false 3000' altitude.  

More here

Comment by Matthew Coleman on October 14, 2013 at 1:56am

"doing who knows what with them"

99% of us are simply trying to keep them in the air and avoid hitting things.  Just flying, no spying.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on October 14, 2013 at 3:00am


I actually discussed about the topic with a guy from our CAA some time ago and the problem is that any ADS-B transponder must be CAA-certified. The certification includes also a lot of RF-measurements to ensure there is no interference with other components, analysis of protocol integrity, etc.

Besides that, it doesn't matter if the transponder is actually installed in a manned aircraft because it is installed for the purpose of the RPAS "coexisting" with manned aircraft, i.e. give manned aircraft situational awareness of RPAS buzzing around.

However, a mere receiver in the GCS which could either deliver data to the GCS software or itself correlate MAVLink telemetry with ADS-B data and show a big red warning light if fullsize traffic comes into the vicinity would be a very practical thing. One of the projects on my list is to integrate the "Mode-S Beast" into my groundstation project at some point.

The Mode-S Beast is a standalone FPGA-based ADS-B decoder with USBSerial and serial output. The communication protocol is open. I'm not sure about the HW and FW.

Comment by Euan Ramsay on October 14, 2013 at 4:29am

I already label all my rigs with my name and telephone number, in clear 20pt san-serif. I don't need a transponder, thanks.

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on October 14, 2013 at 5:30am

Hi All,

Depending on the municipality, many of us already have to have a "license plate" to fly our R/C vehicles. Where I live in Florida, we are restricted as to where we can fly and we have to be AMA members and pay a local yearly "right to fly" fee. If this does not sound like licensing then I do not know what is!:-)


TCIII ArduRover2 Developer


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