A new smartphone app will let people identify mysterious drones

A new smartphone app will let people identify mysterious drones flying overhead and find out who they belong to and what they’re used for

  • The app is being developed by DJI, the world’s biggest global manufacturer
  • Currently targeted for a 2020, the app will be the first phone-based tracker
  • Previously, drone trackers required expensive specialty equipment

The world’s largest drone manufacturer has announced plans for a new smartphone app that lets users identify mysterious drones flying around their neighborhood.

Developed by DJI, the Shenzhen based drone giant, the unnamed app is targeted for a release in early 2020 pending approval by government regulators.

The app will have a range of around .6 miles using WiFi Aware, a new communication protocol that allows WiFi-enabled devices to communicate with one another.

DJI announced the new app at the United Nations-sponsored Drone Enable conference in Montreal this week.

‘We’ve created a remote identification solution that works with what people already have,’ DJI’s Brendan Schulman told Reuters.

At a conference in Montreal this week, DJI announced a new smartphone app that will let users identify any suspicious drones flying nearby

The app will mark the first time the general public will be able to monitor local drone traffic without expensive specialty equipment.

The app uses WiFi to identify the registration number of nearby drones and match it to an owner.

DJI says the app is meant as a tool for people who might be worried about someone using a drone to spy on them or otherwise violate their privacy.  

Last week, the UK announced it would create a drone registry that requires anyone with a drone of model aircraft between half a pound and 40 pounds to register.

The unnamed app is currently being evaluated by regulators and is planned for an early 2020 release

The Federal Aviation Administration wants drone identification registries  to work similarly to the way the car license plate system does


WiFi Aware is a new communication protocol that allows two devices with WiFi to stay in constant contact with each other.

The devices will communicate without using any additional data.

WiFi Aware will allow different WiFi devices to connect directly through individual, limited-use apps, rather than  open-ended full device connection.

For example, to play a game with a nearby friend, you would just launch the app and invite them to play through the app, all without using data or the internet. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has said it would like for drones to have an identification system similar to car license plates.

‘Remote identification is the #1 priority of the FAA with unmanned systems,’ Philip Kenul, an aviation regulation official in the US, told Retuers.

DJI’s drones and accessories account for around 70 percent of the global drone industry, which rose to $12.3billion in 2018.

Schulman argued the smartphone app would allow the industry to continue growing without heavy-handed regulation.

‘Rather than restrict operators, you can punish the operations that are actively harmful,’ he said. 


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