Keeping drones from colliding with other airborne objects and crashing to the ground is a complex challenge for the aviation industry, and one with no single answer. But adding to the growing mix of drone safety solutions is a new measure from industry giant DJI, who has committed to incorporating helicopter and airplane detectors into new models from next year onward.
These detectors represent the latest in a series of safety-oriented moves from China-based DJI, who remains the largest producer of drones on the planet. The company has previously blocked flights over the White House by way of firmware updates, introduced geofencing software that stops its drones flying into other restricted airspace and other software that limits the range of unregistered drones.
At the heart of this latest safety advance is a technology commonly used in the aviation industry called an ADS-B receiver. A large portion of today's commercial aircraft are fitted with ADS-B and use it to communicate their position to other aircraft and air traffic control.
So too are some of DJI's professional-grade drones, such as the industrial strength Matrice 200 and the Mavic 2 Enterprise released last year. DJI calls its adaptation of the technology AirSense, and says it can detect the ADS-B signals from airplanes and helicopters miles away. It then displays their position on the screen of the drone pilot's remote controller and gives them a warning if it appears a collision is possible.
From January 2020 onwards, DJI says it will now build the feature into all of its consumer drones that weigh above 250 g (8.8 oz), which includes popular models like the Phantom and Mavic series. The company says this will be the largest single deployment of ADS-B technology to date, and does seem a rather prudent move following a string of recent airport shutdowns caused by drone sightings, notably at London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
"There has never been a confirmed collision between a drone and an airplane, but drones have struck low-flying helicopters at least twice," said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President for Policy & Legal Affairs. "This led us to focus on AirSense as the next opportunity to make drones safer, and to embrace the challenge of adding ADS-B receivers to consumer drone models that are already in development."
You can check out the promo video below.
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