Drone Scanner: iPhone app displays data from nearby drones

Modern drones or multicopters retrofitted with the appropriate transmitters transmit certain information about themselves, their flight and the pilots via Bluetooth and WLAN. This can not only be used by flight control authorities to monitor drone flights in the airspace, but also by private individuals. With the free Drone Scanner app for iOS and Android, you too can track down the remote-controlled aircraft. The free program for smartphones is offered by Dronetag, a manufacturer of “Remote ID” transmitters. I have summarized here what the app brings and what criticism you can level at it.

Locating drones and finding the location of pilots with the smartphone: the free drone scanner software from Dronetag makes this possible on iOS and Android. Information about the function as well as criticism can be found in this article.
Locating drones and finding the location of pilots with the smartphone: the free drone scanner software from Dronetag makes this possible on iOS and Android. Information about the function as well as criticism can be found in this article.

What can the Drone Scanner App do to find nearby drones?

The headline already reveals the main purpose of the application software for Apple iPhone and for Android phones: find drones flown nearby. In addition, the smartphone can also receive other information thanks to the drone scanner app. These are actively transmitted by the aircraft, which is based on regulatory provisions. In the USA, information must be sent out via Remote ID from September 2023, and it will certainly not be long in the EU either.

The Drone Scanner app shows this remote ID data from drones:

  • Number, position and altitude of nearby drones displayed in real time
  • Representation of flight routes or flight directions of the individual devices
  • Display of a map to locate the drones and their trajectories
  • Position of the pilot and their ID, such as the eID
  • If entered by pilot, a description of the flight or purpose of flight

What is a drone's Remote ID good for?

The information sent out to identify and position a remote-controlled aircraft and the pilot is practical for the aviation authority, aircraft pilots, airports and other parties involved in airspace. In this way, approved flights can be checked, illegal flights uncovered and possible dangers identified at an early stage, and the associated drone flight can be ended. Sending accurate information, including identification of the pilots, can also serve as a deterrent to people who don't give a damn about permits and airspace safety (and the privacy of others).

How does a drone's Remote ID work?

The sending and receiving of drone and pilot data via the Remote ID is standardized and runs via Bluetooth 4, Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi Beacon and Wi-Fi NAN. A drone does not have to master all radio standards at once. But at least one of the Bluetooth generations mentioned and either Wi-Fi Beacon or Wi-Fi NAN must be used. The information sent out (see above) can then be read by all devices that also support these technologies and have software for displaying the data - such as the Drone Scanner App from Dronetag:

Criticism of the Drone Scanner App

Flying drones automatically attracts the curious - whether camera drones for filming or photos, multicopters with thermal imaging sensors for energy advice, FPV drones for fun flying or rickety discounter aircraft for the first experiences that end up in the next tree. In addition to interest, a rejection and the (not only occurring in this country, but still very German) tendency to instruct and to announce bans often play a role in corresponding disputes. Everyone is suddenly an expert and knows better what is allowed and what is not. 

When it comes to protecting your own property and privacy, that's understandable. But in the open field, on business flights for filming, photos or inspecting buildings and facilities, it is one thing above all: annoying. Not only does every drone whirring in the sky attract attention, but by finding the person controlling it with their smartphone, it is possible for everyone, without exception, to stand right next to it and hear the knowledge that is based on regulations from three years ago , to pray down. 

It often doesn't matter whether you are legally on the safe side, can show permission and assure you that you are not taking any photos or videos of the person's extremely private walk. Jens will be able to sing you a song about it; I know it personally but also from observations. Accordingly, the Drone Scanner App and similar offers can be viewed critically. Because even if you stick to all the rules, the likelihood that you will be told otherwise by private individuals and that they will threaten you with ads or whatever is more likely to increase.

Sending and retrieving drone data - your opinion on this?

Surely we come to the same conclusion that sending drone data is a good idea for airspace regulation and accident prevention. Remote ID, eID and Co. are also certainly a good idea for monitoring approved flights or for proving illegal flights. But what do you think of the possibility of control and surveillance by private individuals with a smartphone? Do you see it as a chance to enforce your image rights and lunch break? Or do you think that this will mean that legitimate pilots will hear more unnecessary tirades in the future? Feel free to leave a comment on the topic :)

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9 thoughts on “Drone Scanner: iPhone app displays data from nearby drones”

  1. In my opinion, control of the airspace is exclusively a matter for the control authorities responsible for it. Self-appointed deputy sheriffs should be denied this opportunity. In addition to the "legal" instructions from some smartass, which one is already exposed to today, "drone scanners" in private hands open up new possibilities to hunt down drone pilots. I will not prove my legitimacy for a drone flight to any private person in the future either. But it is only a matter of time before there will be threats and violence against drone pilots - even with legal flights...

    1. I see it the same way. It's like being able to look up who owns a certain license plate number in a database. Why isn't this possible, but with drones, can I find out this data? Seems like a gap in the privacy efforts that the EU cares so much about.

  2. We're having trouble in our neighborhood with a drone pilot flying over residential areas and spying on properties. The burden of proof lies with the injured party. So I would very much welcome such a rule and app.
    As long as drone pilots obey the law, there is nothing to worry about.
    It is sufficient if the drone sends identification, coordinates and flight altitude. The database can be locked for private users. The authorities have the same access as with a car.

    1. My personal opinion is: it's ok to be labeled like you would on a car. That can be sent by radio. But if you can find out personal data, that's overkill. If your pilot had to send his license plate number, you could take it to the police and they could find out your name and address. That would solve the problem.

      1. Carsten Wermke

        does not have to be drone identification serial number model something is enough. license plate is also ok, but not always correct think of a fleet all with the same pilot ID :-D. but it doesn't matter. I've seen it too often that many who don't stick to it don't have a drone license plate, nothing. insurance, why and so on. I experience it often enough. everyone flies around somewhere somehow.
        the rules are then pulled up for us, although we mostly stick to everything, why because we are properly registered, the people who want to screw up don't do it as a registered drone pilot and their own identifier, those who screw up have something bought a drone unregistered and just fly around. experienced often enough

  3. I think. If you keep to the law, you shouldn't have anything against registration, because nothing can happen to you.
    I find the transgressions worse. I recently sued a neighbor for flying his drone over our residential area and spying on the gardens. I'm not going to buy a house with a piece of land that I can't see so that a pilot like that can circle over mine and see what I'm doing in my garden.
    Unfortunately, the penalties are still too low.

    1. Yes, I think you can do something about it. Often enough, with official approval and notices from the regulatory office and the police, I was on the road with the drone for measurements or inspection flights and was insulted by passers-by and residents. And I honestly don't want people like that, who have absolutely no civility, to know my address. I have nothing against sensible conversations and I am happy to explain why you are allowed to do what and what you do and why you do something, but people who come straight to the point of aggression are not good conversationalists.

      1. I think you have to balance interests. A public register for drones and pilots opens the door to abuse. No .. but ... why not a central register like the Federal Motor Vehicle Office, to which only authorities and the judiciary have access.
        Citizens can use their app to scan the drone and make the data available to the police or a lawyer.
        But I think if you use the drone professionally for surveys or inspection flights, you should inform the local residents accordingly. Be it in online or print media. In my view, the mere permission of the authorities is not enough.

        1. I do not have a problem with that. Simply make a license plate that the drone sends and you can then easily report it to the police. But I already wrote that in the post above.

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