Da-Jiang Innovations, more commonly referred to as DJI, is a worldwide leader in producing consumer aerial vehicles, accounting for some 70% of the world’s consumer drone market as of 2020. With the company’s popularity amid the explosion of the drone industry, it stands to reason that DJI drones are the target of theft. But can DJI track a stolen drone?
DJI can track a stolen drone to a certain extent. The company’s Aeroscope system is a powerful means of tracking rogue drones, while consumer smartphone apps allow users to get the IDs of drones flying in the area. The owner can also track their DJI drone through the “Find My Drone” app.
Although all of these technological safeguards help track a stolen drone, the company cannot 100% guarantee that it will be able to find your stolen drone. If the perpetrator never flies the drone and keeps the craft powered off to avoid the Find My Drone app, then it can be very difficult to uncover the location of your stolen drone.
Is DJI Able to Track a Stolen Drone?
There are several ways DJI can track a stolen drone and help get it returned to its rightful owner:
Aeroscope Tracking System
Aeroscope is a proprietary tracking system that DJI released in 2017 to help identify rogue drones. Namely, it is a commercial air traffic safety mechanism for airports, stadiums, and prisons that may be at risk for illegal or rogue drone activity. Illegal drone activity may include drug smuggling, cyber-attacks, or illegal surveillance.
While Aeroscope is a powerful program that can provide real-time tracking of most DJI drones and the precise location of their controller, it does have some drawbacks, including:
- It is not designed for consumer use, with the technology pigeonholed to entities with a commercial air traffic interest.
- It will not identify drones flying outside of the restricted flight area the system is in place to patrol.
- It does not recognize some DJI drone models, specifically older varieties manufactured before 2014.
- Sophisticated criminals can change the drone ID to avoid being pinpointed.
Smartphone Tracking App
With the huge increase in stolen drones and illegal drone activity, there has been an influx of drone tracking apps available to consumers to see the aerial activity in their area. DJI unveiled one of these consumer tracking apps in 2020.
With the DJI app installed and a smart device connected to Wi-Fi, consumers can get a snapshot of all airborne drones within a 1 kilometer (.62 mile) range of the device. While a stolen drone may not ring an alarm bell to someone miles away from the victim’s location, DJI can look at all aerial activity captured in the app and compare it against the IDs of drones reported as stolen.
The downside to this app is that it has no means of tracking drones that are not flown. In addition, even if the drone is flown, it only reveals the radius of where the drone is used and the controller’s location at the time of use, making it a bit challenging to pinpoint the perpetrator with 100% accuracy.
Find My Drone App
The most basic technological tracking system for a DJI drone is the Find My Drone app, which should be downloaded any time a new DJI drone is purchased.
This app works similar to how the “Find My iPhone” app works, using the tracking device to triangulate the last known GPS location of the missing drone.
The downside to the Find My Drone app is that it will not work if the drone is turned off, the battery has died, or the battery has been removed. Therefore, it works better for lost drones than stolen drones, as sophisticated criminals will know to power off the drone to avoid GPS tracking.
Other Ways to Track a Lost DJI Drone
If the aforementioned means for tracking your stolen DJI drone are not working or are not accessible, there are some more rudimentary means of tracking lost drones:
- Check pawn shops and online marketplaces. Most drone thieves know that flying a stolen drone puts them at risk of getting caught. As a result, most thefts are made for financial gain. Although it may seem like a one-in-a-million chance, check secondhand marketplaces to see if any drones have recently come available.
- Keep your controller on. There is a chance that your drone is not stolen but has simply gone out of range of your controller. If your drone dies, you will be out of luck, but if you notice your drone is missing and keep moving in a wide radius with the controller on, the drone may come back into range and reconnect with the controller.
- Take screenshots. This is more of a preventative measure for drones with cameras than a tracking measure. However, if you notice that the images get unexpectedly choppy, this could indicate suspicious activity. If you have screenshots of the drone’s last known location, it can help you track it down.
DJI can track a stolen drone to a certain extent. The advanced Aeroscope tracking system can capture suspicious drone activity in high-threat areas, while more recent smartphone tracking apps allow consumers to look at airborne activity in their vicinity. There is also the Find My Drone app that gives your smart device agency to pinpoint the GPS coordinates of a lost drone.
While these methods do provide hope that a lost drone can be located, they are not 100% effective. Crafty criminals will know to keep stolen drones turned off and out of the air, causing users to have to resort to more primitive means of tracking their stolen craft.