Did Anyone Get the License Plate of That Drone?
LightCense project proposes visual ID system of flashing colored lights for UAVs
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, have all but taken over the skies lately. In May, a photography drone struck two people at a parade in Marblehead, MA, luckily with only minor injuries. And in August, a drone struck the Great American Tower in Cincinnati, OH, shattering glass on the 29th floor but causing no injuries. While the operators of both vehicles were identified, LightCense believes that drones need their own “license plates” to bring accountability to the skies.
At present, anyone can purchase a UAV and operate it, but in the event of a mishap, finding the owner can present a problem.
LIghtCense hopes to change that by creating a visual ID system of flashing colored LEDs, giving each drone a unique signature that can be observed and recognized at a distance. A smartphone with the correct app could use its camera to record the sequence of lights and identify the drone within moments. The system would also include GPS, telemetry, and transponder, acting as a black box for the drone and allowing long-range detection.
Regulations governing UAVs are spotty at best; in Massachusetts, no permit was needed to fly the drone over the parade, while Cincinnati does not permit drones over the downtown area. The operator of the Massachusetts drone apologized and promised not to fly his vehicle in populated areas again. The owner of the Cincinnati drone was charged with criminal mischief.
But as communities all over the country attempt to deal with the ramifications of drones, LightCense may turn out to be an important part of the dialogue.