back to article France wants you to put lights and beacons on your drone

The French government has proposed a new law making it mandatory for all drones to be fitted with electronic conspicuity beacons – an idea with big implications for the future of drone regulation. The proposal, written in legal French (a translation of which can be found here) would mandate the installation of beacons on all …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    I'll add a light to my drone...

    Flashing the Morse letters : F U if you don't mind...

    All this does is increase power-consumption and weight...

    And while we're at it, just add some parameters to the message payload, like :

    - shoe size

    - I.Q.

    - fecal frequency

    - number of times you had sex

    - left- or right handed

    - social security number

    - penis size

    - a picture of the owner encoded in 24-bit color .BMP format

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: I'll add a light to my drone...

      Come on, at least follow the tradition.

      The Morse code should say: "Your Mother Was A Hamster" while the drone "Farts in your general direction".

      On a more serious note - the beacon consumption is marginal compared to the rest of the package and the wi-fi bit requires virtually zero additional power/battery expenditure for a WiFi controlled drone. As far as proposals go this one is not entirely unreasonable technically.

    2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Blanketing ATC screens with drone details is unlikely

      The feed to ATC screens tends to be filtered as a matter of course. Originally this was done to remove stationary ground clutter from radar displays, but was quickly extended to allow removal of returns from anything travelling slower than a user-selected speed, e.g. flocks of gulls. I think you'll find this type of filter is pretty much standard in secondary radar as well. Secondary radar only shows the result of interrogating transponders carried by aircraft and is a direct development from the IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) systems developed during WW2 to let radar operators to distinguish their aircraft from enemy ones.

      Drones carrying the French system won't show up on existing ATC screens because these don't monitor the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band. At present ATC doesn't monitor FLARM or Pilot-Aware transmissions either, though this is starting to change.

      ATC is quite likely to start monitoring a drone conspicuity band if its use becomes mandatory and airspace incursions continue to happen, so whether they do this is probably dependent on the good behaviour of the drone-flying community and their ability to control maverick operators. However, its very likely that any such monitor system would only display details of drones that violate controlled airspace or are in class G airspace and above 120m.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blanketing ATC screens with drone details is unlikely

        1. If the "drone" (hacked Android device?) is transmitting its own position, why would you trust the little bugger?

        2. Why not require transponders on drones?

        3. Surely filtering out slowly moving objects is going to make police helicopters and hot-air balloons disappear from the radar screen? Do hot-air balloons carry transponders?

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: I'll add a light to my drone...

      "All this does is increase power-consumption and weight..."

      Are you sure about that? My drone is a tiddly ~180G model and it has a plug in camera that provides FPV via a WiFi connection. Weight is about 6g including plastic case, and power consumption is practically nothing compared to what the drone itself sucks up while in flight.

      Be cruel and double everything to account for a GPS module, still "doable" without being onerous.

      Of course, whether it'll be any good or whether the drone IDs will be cloned in a matter of minutes is an entirely different question. Not to mention the inconvenience of yet something else spamming data in the already covered congested-to-hell-and-back 2.4GHz band...

  2. Peter2 Silver badge

    Prominent drone industry firms, including Altitude Angel, have told The Register that, in their view, blanketing air traffic controllers' screens with hundreds of low-level drone flights would achieve little in terms of aviation safety. ®

    Even if it was detectable by ATC (which is far from clear given the transmission frequency is not an existing ATC one ASFAIK) if they are trying to deconflict airliners from other traffic then surely they'd just squelsh all signals under ten thousand feet at any point other than around airports etc. (where IIRC your not allowed to fly a drone at the moment anyway)

    The real thing there is being able to track the owner down so that if they end up hitting something then the owner can be tracked down.

  3. Detective Emil
    Black Helicopters

    [W]hat about those bent on aerial mischief?

    May I refer you to Dedrone, who would love to discuss your particular requirements. Apple is already suspected to be using something of this sort — see the uploader's comment on this YouTube flyover video.

  4. Ochib

    Is there any rule for the maximum power output for the drones, since broadcasting at over 20 watts may screw up IEEE 802.11n communications.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice one really

    "The proposed beacon would run on the unlicensed 2.4GHz Wi-Fi spectrum allocation and transmit data using the rather elderly 802.11n specification."

    What a freaking good idea. The 2.4 GHz is complete garbage already with everyone and everything on it. Let's add drones Wifi there !

    And also, like happened with region locking on DVDs, I bet the vendors will make it such as being trivial to remove those little spies ...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some folk already fit extra blinknr lampen, but I could see it causing problems fom a filming and photography point of view...

  7. Not also known as SC

    And They'll Enforce It

    As France is the country that introduced reflective stickers on motorcycle helmets which can't be removed without damaging the helmet, along with (IIRC) hi-visibility vests to be carried inside a car at all times and a requirement for a breathalyser kit (but not enforced at the moment) I can truly believe that this proposal will be passed and become law quite soon.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: And They'll Enforce It

      But it'll be ignored, like all other laws in France.

      1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

        Re: And They'll Enforce It

        "But it'll be ignored, like all other laws in France."

        unless you get caught in a roadside check area just out side the car ferry terminal, where they pull over every car with an English number plate to see if you have your little red triangle, high vis jacket and wherever else you are required to have in France but not here...

        They make quite a lot of money in fines each year from these check points.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: And They'll Enforce It

      "hi-visibility vests to be carried inside a car at all times"

      Yes, but it's complete bollocks that it needs to be draped over a seat so the fuzz can see it. You just need to be able to produce one (preferably one per person in the car) if stopped. So keep it in its bag and with the first aid kit.

      "and a requirement for a breathalyser kit (but not enforced at the moment)"

      Not enforced because it can't reliably be enforced - the presence of a blow-in alcotest means nothing whatsoever as it is insulting to those who don't drink and those who do are increasingly less likely to use it depending on their level of inibriation - not to mention that they are notoriously unreliable.

      "will be passed and become law quite soon."

      I wonder how well it will go this summer when all the 90kph speed limits are dropped to 80kph? The problem isn't speed. The problem is the pathological need to be in front of the car in front, leading to all too often people doing stupid things like overtaking multiple cars in the fog, uphill, on a blind bend...

  8. Sil

    Not mandatory for leisure

    The request for comments, before 5.5.2018, Is related to 3 draft documents/.

    The drone must electronically send:

    - drone ID

    - Drone coordinates and altitude

    - date and time

    - coordinates from launch- Itinerary and speed

    The communication is to help the following entities do their work: national defense, security service, rescue services, customs.

    The draft provides from numerous exemptions to lights, beacons and communications.

    Most notably, when it weights under 800 gramms.

    Or when the drone is used for leisure by a member of accredited multisport sport / drone federations on locations accredited.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good good

    Will make it a lot easier to blast them to bits if I spot one over my garden.

  10. JohnFen

    This sounds reasonable

    This sounds eminently reasonable to me. Far better than the sort of thing DJI is doing.

  11. Haku

    250g limit? Hmm.

    I recently built a very light FPV quad which uses 5" props and weighs 163g without the battery, if I pick the right weight battery it'll be under 250g total - and this thing goes like a rocket, a rudimentary test with an old 3 cell battery tells me it's going well over 60mph, I suspect it'll go 80mph or maybe faster with a new 4 cell battery but I'll need a radar gun to measure it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 250g limit? Hmm.

      "I recently built a very light FPV quad"

      Where did you find the plans and components?

      1. Haku

        Re: 250g limit? Hmm.

        I pretty much copied Drone Mesh's build with the same frame & stack, but my stack came with VTX & camera and used Cobra CP1407 3200KV as that's what the frame designer suggests is good for it.

        This is what mine turned out to look like and fly, it's crazy fast, I've got to do a lot more flights with it to get used to it's handling.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 250g limit? Hmm.

          slightly off topic but...

          I am about to build a drone after loosing one that was bought for me.... something screwy with the gyro and it compensated for a wind that was not there..... shot off in a south westerly direction at top speed... never to be seen again....

          any pointers to good sites for info on builds?

          1. Haku

            Re: 250g limit? Hmm.

            What sort of drone are you wanting to build, FPV racing/freestyle or GPS based?

            The forums contain a wealth of information and friendly help from members for this sort of thing, which I also post there as Haku.

            The sections you might want to look at are Aircraft - Electric - FPV and Aircraft - Electric - Multirotor Drones

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 250g limit? Hmm.

              cheers, I was thinking of GPS based, very stable with a quality camera on a gimbal for doing aerial photography. but also something I can just lark about with.....

              a friend of mine wants to get into FPV racing, but wont have it you need to start with something a little sedate. i tried to explain that It would be like trying to build and fly a euro-fighter when you have had one introductory flying lesson in a single engine Cessna and are crap at assembling Ikea furniture....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reply from FFAM

    The Register has asked the French Aeromodellers' Association (FFAM), which told its members about the proposals in its regular newsletter, for comment.

    the reply from FFAM was as follows.

    Arrêtez d'essayer de gâcher notre plaisir et sortez d'ici avec ce code morse transmettant "u" merde. Qu'est-ce que les bureaucrates vont faire ensuite? Est-ce qu'ils n'ont rien de mieux à faire? Bâtards. Donnez-leur chacun une baguette viciée pour pousser leur cul.

  13. Mark 65

    Not so sure

    Though registration of all drones weighing more than 250 grams will certainly happen over here

    A law requiring it may certainly happen but I very much doubt compliance "certainly" will. Heck, there are some that still drive with no MoT or insurance so it's unlikely to be complied with. More likely will be its convenient use by the police to then search, fingerprint, DNA swab you etc.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And must wear...

    Pierre Cardin anoraks...

    --- runs away!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The "Legal French" info is fake

    Zero mention of croissants or surrender.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The "Legal French" info is fake

      The "Legal French" info is fake

      Zero mention of croissants or surrender.

      or monkeys and cheese for lunch.....

  16. DuncanLarge

    I see a new hobby/sport

    If the spec is open we could even see a new hobby! Drone spotting.

    Imagine if you could combine it with something like geocaching! A geocache that moves?

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