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Drones to have electronic number plates

According to a new bill, all professional drones are soon to be fitted with an electronic number plate. The University of Southern Denmark is underway with the development of drone number plates and is about to test the technology.

Around 10 drone operators have had a number plate attached to their drone. Among these is the Danish Emergency Management Agency who use drones for chemical spills and fires.

Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark's drone centre have developed a very small gadget that resembles a mobile telephone. This connects directly to a server at the university so that researchers can track the flights.

- We have learned that the number plate needs to switch on and off automatically. When the drone operator uses the drone professionally for things like finding district heating pipes with an infrared camera, he is focusing on the work and may not remember to switch the drone's electronic number plate on and off, says Assistant Professor Kjeld Jensen from SDU UAS Centre at the University of Southern Denmark.

The Danish Transport and Construction Agency has asked researchers at SDU UAS Centre to come up with solutions for how the authorities can keep track of the growing number of drones. And while the researchers are working hard in the drone laboratory, the Government has just introduced a bill. According to the bill, professional drones flying in urban areas should be equipped with an electronic number pate when the technology is available. This will make it easy to identify the drone's operator when the authorities need to quickly clear the airspace, for example if a medical helicpoter has to land.

- We are working on two different designs. One is based on a radio transmitter fitted to the number plate. It sends a signal to a potential policeman's tablet on the ground. The second system has an inbuilt mobile telephone that continuously sends signals directly to a national database, explains Kjeld Jensen and continues:

- This solution requires a mobile telephone subscription in order to work. It makes sense if the number plates are to be used by commercial pilots in the city. But if the registration is also to be extended to 16-year-old boys playing in the garden, for example,  then a cheaper solution with a radio transmitter would be better, says Kjeld Jensen.

It is the mobile telephone solution which at present is being tested among drone operators, while the radio transmitter will be tested in collaboration with different businesses. The researchers will use the practical experience to fine-tune the technology and design.

- A lot of people can't understand that drones need to be registered because, after all, they are just a toy, but in line with the increasing number of drones the authorities need to know who is operating them. Otherwise the police are powerless to act when Mrs Jensen calls and asks to have a drone that's hovering over her garden removed or when drones smuggle things over prison walls, points out Kjeld Jensen.