How We Use The Standard Black Box API For Drone Enforcement #APIDesignFiction

My name is Dirk Alan, I’m an official black box drone inspector for the FAA. I based in Los Angeles, in charge of monitoring the region for drone activivity from Long Beach up to Mailbu. If a drone comes down, is detained, or for any other reasons ends up in custody, I’m called in to retrieve it and figure out what fines need to leveraged against the pilot, and whether or not equipment, and data is impounded.

The first thing I do after picking up a drone is connect my black app on my mobile device to the Drones blackbox API. All drones in the US are required to have a black box that records location, and other activity that occurs via the drone technology, like pictures, and temperature taken. Each drones black box also contains any manufacturer details, who originally sold the drone, and who is the current registered owner. Per the 2018 Drone Act, all drones are required to have a standard blackbox API definition, underlying storage definition, and record ALL activity that occurs.

Not all drones I pick up have a black box. Only about 50% of the drones I am called in to pick up have the technolgoy, something we are looking to evolve. One site in El Segundo, near LAX is setup as a drone intercept site, where we actively scan flying drones, by sending a blackbox API request, and if no response is received within a timely manner, anti-drone technology is used to bring the drone down. The agency is hoping the risk of having drones taken, and having them linked back to the owner, will push drone operators to comply.

Most of the time, the drones we detain, are just video drones, which when impounded, we store all video in the cloud for 5 years, or longer if a case is pending around a drone. increasingly drones also have a payload, which is usually drugs, but can also be cash, paper messages, USB sticks, and any other random things not worth mentioning. With the introduction of anti-drone technology, and more drone detainment activity, we expect to have more data, giving a better picture of what types of payloads drones are being used to transport.

Ultimately it is the drone API layer that is providing the biggest assistance to our efforts. Having a standard interface, and storage model as changed how we talk with Drones, and having the long range wireless access that many drone models are using for communicating with drones, has allowed us to ping for the presence of the black box API—giving us a single red flag for identifying illicit drone activity. Next up is standardizing how cameras, weather instruments, sensors, and other drone tech communicate, providing a single API model that can be used across all drone equipment and operations--remotely.